The Christmas weekend launch of the successor to the Hubble Telescope is a gift of inspiration at the end of another year when it's been in short supply.
It also can't help but signify the yawning gap between what people are capable of and what they commonly settle for.
The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope was a collaboration between the space agencies of the United States, Europe and Canada. People from 29 countries have worked on it, AP reports. It blasted away from French Guiana on a European Ariane rocket.
As with previous space missions, it involves vision, ambition and precise calculations that have to work perfectly to pull it all off.
The telescope has a 1.5 million km journey ahead, far beyond the moon, with a task of eventually gazing on light from the first stars and galaxies.
It all hinges on the telescope's mirror and sunshield unfolding on cue over nearly two weeks, having been tucked away to fit into the rocket's nose cone.
If that goes right, the telescope will be able to look back in time a mind-boggling 13.5 billion years.
It caps a fascinating year for space science after the incredibly precise landing of a rover and a helicopter drone on Mars, which resulted in the first powered flight on another planet. As well, in July it was reported that scientists had spotted light from behind a black hole for the first time.
The telescope project to discover mysteries of the universe and seek hints of foreign life cost US$10 billion.
Nasa's science mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen said of the launch: "What an amazing Christmas present".
The timing, cooperation, and development work involved in this latest space event is in marked contrast with the still muddled, individual country-based approach to the pandemic.
While the rocket was launching humanity's imaginative time machine, hundreds of thousands of people on Earth were getting a "gift" of Covid at Christmas. Both Britain and France hit more than 100,000 cases on Saturday.
It is closer to the US$50b amount the OECD has estimated it would cost to vaccinate the world's population against the coronavirus and protect the global economy.
Far more money than that - US$12 trillion - was spent by countries in financial support between March and November 2020.
Although that support was urgently needed, surely there was also time to hatch a US$50b global plan for a coronavirus endgame before the vaccines came on stream in late 2020.
Now, a year later, each country is dealing with the Omicron wave its own way, and progress in distributing vaccines to poorer regions is slow. People feel frustrated the vaccines haven't guaranteed a return to life as we knew it.
The vaccines themselves are an amazing scientific achievement: developed quickly and still doing their job of protecting the vast majority of vaccinated people against severe Covid disease.
A study by the World Health Organisation and a European Union agency estimated in November that the vaccines had saved nearly half a million lives in a region of 33 countries.
But it is hard for people to really absorb achievements that involve prevention: When they work as hoped, at least some people believe it's proof the threat was overblown.
Space science and reaching for the stars have colonised our imaginations through explorations, exploits and popular culture in a way that earthly achievements can't.
We struggle to transfer that focus into reaching for problems to solve here on Earth.