I grew up just a few miles from where Lewis and Clark went through Idaho on their way to and from the Pacific Ocean. Lewis and Clark were a prominent feature in Idaho History taught in the eight grade. I have listened to books on tapes about them and Barb and I have stopped at lots of historical landmarks and a few museums along the Lewis and Clark trail in Montana and Idaho. It was an amazing journey with only one man lost, probably due to an appendicitis rupture, through hostile native American country (the Sioux in particular) as well as incredibly friendly native Americans (the Nez Perce as well as others), starvation as well as an excess of food, and dangerous animals (read about their experience with grizzly bears!). Thomas Jefferson made an excellent choice in Meriwether Lewis for the leader of the journey but screwed up in the handling of his return. Lewis probably should have been sent back out on another trip rather than being given a desk job as a governor. Lewis ended up committing suicide just a couple years after returning from his historic trip.
I’m reminded of all this by the following from the Washington Post:
“What we have ahead of us represents a challenge significantly greater than when we first went to the moon,” Griffin said recently in a speech.
New classes of astronauts will have to practice flying in a vehicle quite different from the shuttle and learn how to extract resources such as oxygen from the moon’s soil. They will be taught to grow vegetables in lunar greenhouses and conduct geological tests on the moon’s surface. Already, engineers at United Space Alliance are studying how a crew will be able to train aboard the spacecraft on a three-year trip to Mars. Eventually, Mars-bound astronauts will have to learn how to extract fuel and other resources from Mars’ surface.
“The requirement to live off the land will be crucial to our future in space, just as it was to Lewis and Clark,” Griffin said recently.
There will be some crucial differences in the journey to Mars versus to the Pacific Ocean via the Missouri and Columbia rivers. In some ways we know a lot more about what is between Earth and Mars than the men of Lewis and Clark’s expedition knew before their trip. But then L&C could turn around and come back at almost any time if the going got too rough. They never had to worry about where their next breath of fresh air was going to be found, water was never a problem, and food was only rarely a problem. Even when they were at their most distance point from their origin, the mouth of the Columbia, they could have just waited for the next ship to stop in and pay for a ride home. Mars explorers will face larger challenges but will probably have to do less “thinking on their feet”. The brain power of thousands of support staff on earth will be only a few minutes away as long as their radios work.
I wish them luck and wish I could go with them. James and I, as well as other friends, have often fantasized about starting over someplace other than Earth. If it were up to us we would create a new place to live where the rules were extraordinary few and the freedoms vast. A place where the Bill of Rights were adhered to rather than ignored. Where government was truly limited to the most minimal amount absolutely required. Where free markets and free ideas were something to be celebrated rather than repressed.
This isn’t off topic, so stay with me for a moment–James sent me an email yesterday saying:
Ok, Meredith is insisting that I read some Heinlein. Not reading him is apparently a great offense. She’s got where I should start narrowed down to The Past Through Tomorrow, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. So I’m cross-referencing them by you to see what you think I should read first. Thanks.
I have been trying to get him to read Heinlein for about 15 years now. I saved all my Heinlein books for my children hoping they would enjoy them as much as I did. No luck. None of my kids would read more than a chapter or two before getting bored. Now James is almost 22 years old and “Meredith” has more influence over him than his father ever did. I’m a little bit envious but I like this “Meredith” already and I have never met her or had any contact with her. Just a few things James has told us about her. Heinlein had a huge influence on me and my personal philosophy. My recommendation to James from that short list of Heinlein books? The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It’s unlikely I will live to see the revolution as envisioned by Heinlein in this book but the dream that my children may live to see it or something similar and enjoy the fruits of it please me. Freedom is embedded in the spirit of humans and repression of that is only a short term accomplishment. Thank you Meredith for helping me to keep James on track.