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Program Poetry & Literature

In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa

Ada Limón reads "In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa"

In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa

Arching under the night sky inky
with black expansiveness, we point
to the planets we know, we

pin quick wishes on stars. From earth,
we read the sky as if it is an unerring book
of the universe, expert and evident.

Still, there are mysteries below our sky:
the whale song, the songbird singing
its call in the bough of a wind-shaken tree.

We are creatures of constant awe,
curious at beauty, at leaf and blossom,
at grief and pleasure, sun and shadow.

And it is not darkness that unites us,
not the cold distance of space, but
the offering of water, each drop of rain,

each rivulet, each pulse, each vein.
O second moon, we, too, are made
of water, of vast and beckoning seas.

We, too, are made of wonders, of great
and ordinary loves, of small invisible worlds,
of a need to call out through the dark.


As part of her laureateship, Ada Limón wrote an original poem, “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa,” dedicated to NASA’s Europa Clipper mission.

On June 1, 2023, Limón debuted “In Praise of Mystery” to kick off the NASA “Message in a Bottle” campaign, which invites people around the world to sign their names to the poem.

The poem will be engraved on the Clipper, along with participants' names that will be etched onto microchips mounted on the spacecraft. Together, the poem and participant’s names will travel 1.8 billion miles on Europa Clipper’s voyage to the Jupiter system.

For a trip into Library of Congress resources related to space travel, visit “Finding Our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond.”

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