Micah Meadowcroft at The New Atlantis:
Hannah Arendt reflected on the significance of humanity’s desire for the stars in her 1963 essay “The Conquest of Space and the Stature of Man.” Man, she said, has not found a new place for himself after his self-displacement in modernity’s rejection of old orders. We stand alienated from ourselves and nature. And as we see deeper into the firmament, and account for more of nature, we only better know the scale of our disorientation, the smallness of our vision. Science cannot bound the cosmos into a comfortable domain, for “this observed universe, the infinitely small no less than the infinitely large, escapes not only the coarseness of human sense perception but even the enormously ingenious instruments that have been built for its refinement.” But neither does modern science really wish to find a place for man in all this space, for the questions that would require would produce answers for man that act “as definitions and hence as limitations of his efforts.”
This alienation calls for some kind of transcendence — a need to find ourselves and discover where we are.