Lewis and Clark go to Mars

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.

23 thoughts on “Lewis and Clark go to Mars

  1. For the record I only recall you giving me 2 Heinlein books to read. You tried to get me to read Stranger in a Strange Land when I was in Junior High and it was seriously dull for that age. Then 3 years ago you had me read Revolt in 2100 which was ok. Other than that, nothing I can remember.

  2. James, I gently probed you on reading Heinlein numerous times but knew that pushing hard would only make you less receptive. Having the suggestion come from Meredith will be more fruitful than from me.

  3. James linked me this over AIM today and said I might be interested. I am amused. So I guess a bit about “Meredith.”

    I am a bookworm and have been for ages. I’m very much into Sci Fi and Fantasy along with many other kinds of books. Heinlein is probably my favorite Sci Fi author and one of my absolute favorite authors. My first Heinlein book was Stranger in a Strange Land. My freshman high school history teacher told us how he used to make his classes listen to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (I’m a huge Billy Joel fan anyway) and learn what everything mentioned in the song was. For some reason or another I don’t think my class had to do that, but I printed out a copy and went to bug my parents about the ones I didn’t know. Stranger is mentioned and my dad hadn’t read it or didn’t know much about it if he had.

    Therefore, it went onto my list of books to pick up during my next trip to my favorite local used book shop. I loved it. It brought up so many different ideas and issues with government, religion and interpersonal relationships. When I like an author, I go out and find as much as I can of what they’ve written. (Which is why I’ve read ALL of O.S. Card…I love the way he tells a story even if he doesn’t have many original ideas.) I’ve read all sorts of Heinlein books in and out of his Future History/Lazarus Long stuff. Working at the before mentinoned used book store and being able to get paid twice my hourly rate in store credit helped feed my addiction. I suggested that Jaime start with the Future History stuff as I really like it and I’m re-reading “To Sail Beyond the Sunset” atm. When I mentioned what I was reading to Jaime, he asked what it was about and I responded that so far it was about a 14 year old girl losing her virginity and her view on sex. I also said that Heinlein was a lecherous old man and loved to write about sex and that I liked the way he did….so maybe painting this picture of Heinlein was the right way to get a 22 year old guy interested in reading him :). I did tell Jaime all about the wonderous issues that Heinlein likes to talk about and that I can’t be friends with anyone who doesn’t like or won’t read Heinlein.

    As a side note James mentioned that I should say a bit about my personal beliefs such that I think a national ID should be assigned to everyone at birth and that if we were to take everyone’s gun away we’d live in peace and harmony and have no crime. After all the government is here to protect us so we should give them as much power as it takes to get that done. The larger government the better.

    I live in Austin and attend UT. I dress like a hippie and listen to 60-70’s music. I grew up in College Station, but left there as fast as I could. If you can’t tell by now that the previous paragraph was a joke, it was a joke :).

  4. Ah yes. If a hot girl tells me that she likes the way Heinlein writes about sex then it bears further investigation. Sorry Dad, you didn’t play up that angle.

    Yeah, she did say that we couldn’t be friends anymore unless I read Heinlein so there was some blackmail too. If you’d threatened to disown me I’d probably have given Stranger in a Strange Land another try.

  5. “There will be some crucial differences in the journey to Mars versus to the Pacific Ocean via the Missouri and Columbia rivers.”

    There are some crucial simularities as well.

    If the nascent United States was to be secure it was a requirement that it expand to it’s natural geographic limits – the Pacific Ocean.

    If the United States in the 21st century is to be secure it is an absolute requirement to seize the high ground and continue exploration – and expliotation – of outer space.

    Not – as some Peace groups have it – to militarize the heavens. But .. first group there gets to shape the culture of the place. A Western culture in space will allow growth and equal opportunity for all – a level playing field.

  6. Thank you Meredith. I appreciate you taking the time to comment as well as your encouragement of James reading Heinlein. As far as your joke is concerned it would have been virtually impossible for a Heinlein fan to be an advocate for gun control and national ID so I knew either you were a raving lunatic or joking. And figuring James wouldn’t have much interest in a raving lunatic I went with the joke hypothesis.

    James, I just didn’t see how I could make the “hot girl” angle work. Your mom didn’t really care for Heinlein and I couldn’t use her as an example. She did read “Time Enough for Love” but that was it.

  7. No problem Joe. Just get used to the fact that girls, in particular a girl who your son stole kisses from is bound to have more sway over his reading material than his father, at least at the age of almost 22.

  8. Yeah. I know. James is a great kid and probably listens to his parents more than most. But reading material is something we pretty much let him select on his own. We encouraged things and he generally tried them.

    “Stole” kisses? Hmmm… I suspect they weren’t stolen. Doesn’t sound like James. Perhaps you need to provide some more details. Perhaps even the video. Email me the details so I can post them on his website, http://www.jameshs.org, for everyone to see. 😉

  9. I plead not guilty to the charge of theft. Anything that may have transpired was mutually agreed upon by both parties. Therefore, I did not steal anything. The kisses were freely given and thus there is no crime here.

  10. I second the vote for The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

    I would also put in a vote for Starship Troopers.

  11. No details! No video! Undocumented first kiss.

    I finished up re-reading To Sail Beyond the Sunset. Even better than I remember it being. I’m gonna pick up The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to re-read after I finish my tests tomorrow. I wish I had my entire stash of books in town and not at my parents’ house. Starship Troopers and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls both are at home along with Door into Summer (another one of my favorites). Oh well, I might have just found a reason to go home for Easter :).

  12. Heavy sigh. Barb and I were hoping for some material worth trading our pictures of James getting his poopy diapers changed and other classics for.

  13. Oh is that what is at stake here? Email me and I’ll see if we can make a deal. ::giggles::

  14. Not to intrude on what seems to have become a family conversation, but I’ve successfully introduced female readers to Heinlein by first giving them Friday (if they get past the rape scene at the beginning, they’re hooked) and if they like Friday then it’s on to To Sail Beyond the Sunset. Given the protagonists of both novels, I’d bet this pair would work to introduce most young males to Heinlein as well.

  15. I LOVE Friday! I’ve never had a real problem with reading about violence/rape/death etc etc, but seeing it in movies bugs me alot. (Ask anyone that has seen a bloody movie with me. Heck, I jump in movies even when I KNOW what is going to happen.)

    Since I finished To Sail Beyond the Sunset I’ve picked up The Moon is a Harsh Mistress again because I had it at my apartment. I went home for a day (I guess technically only 12 hours or less) for Easter and picked up a few more Heinlein books but only managed to get 2 out of the house as my mother was scowling at me and muttering something about passing classes. (She knows how I get when I get on a reading kick, hehe. As I kid I’d hide in the bathroom to read when I was suppose to be sleeping. I’d also keep flashlights (Those got taken away from me and banned from my room) or get up at 2 am to turn on the closet light and read.) Ultimately I brought back The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and The Door Into Summer.

    It has been a while since I’ve read any Heinlein, but it is just as good if not better than I remember. Plus I just really love the way he writes about sex, what can I say? 🙂

  16. Sounds like me. Using the light from the radio dial with the volume turned as low as it will go while in grade school and high school until 2:00 or 3:00 AM. I’ve been known to read for 24 hours straight only slowing down some to use the bathroom and eat.

    Yeah–Heinlein and sex when I was a teenager. That was a potent combination. He was a big influence on me.

  17. Hehe. One Christmas there was a family present of a book that was the 9th and last in a series. We’d all been waiting months to get to read it. My older sister, who started the series first, claimed first dibs. She takes YEARS to read a book…well okay this was like a 900 page book or something, so a few decades is a better description. She agreed I could have it just for Christmas day. I didn’t put the book down till I finished up easily by just around dinner time but my eyes felt like they were gonna fall out.

    Heinlein, Rand, Vonnegut, Card and Saligner were all heavy on my reading list in high school and have an impact on my views and beliefs.

    I just miss having my bookcases (three packed to the ceiling) at my apartment. I feel like I had to play favorites with my friends instead of letting them all come live at my place :(.

  18. It was a Christmas book I remember reading for 24 hours straight too. “Space” by James Michener. It is over 800 pages.

    Rand and Heinlein, I’m with you there. Huge impact on me. I’ve read a little of Vonnegut. Nothing by Salinger. Just “Ender’s Game” by Card and that was much later in life (after all my children recommended it).

  19. Oh, the only comments I’ve gotten from James so far about Moon, is that he doesn’t like the made up words (::pouts::, Did James ever had a bad experience with Dr. Seuss as a child?) and that he thought it was neat that the book mentions John Galt. Well I mentioned Galt and Swamp Fox (I heart him!), and James then agreed it was cool and added that The Scarlet Pimpernel was mentioned.

    He also giggled about the mention of the size of memory blocks that Mike has and enjoyed a quote about women….

    So I’m not sure if that means he is enjoying Heinlein or not. Time will tell!

  20. I love Vonnegut, so crazy! I think Cat’s Cradle has been my favorite but many are right up there with it. J.D. Salinger wrote The Cather in the Rye which I read at an early age and found the only thing I knew to do was to re-read it. I’ve come to love his short stories and other novels. I first read him in 7th grade and did a project on him in 8th grade. I just wish I could get my hand on all the uncollected stories of his. I probably should try now while I have the library resources :).

    I took a class Philosophy and Fiction of Ayn Rand my freshman year and Leonard Peikoff (I think that was his name, I’d have to look at my notes) came to talk to us for a class period. I took the class because I had read Rand in high school and enjoyed her.

    OSC is a fabulous story teller, plus he got me to read the Foundation “Trilogy” because of one of his short stories based off of it. Card just doesn’t have too many unique and new ideas in my opinon (Ender’s Game is really his only one), but he is better than most at telling stories. Plus Card and I just connect.

  21. No bad experiences with Dr. Seuss that I recall.

    James told me that if I had told him “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” was about a revolution from Earth he would have read it a long time ago. I should have known. He frequently asks “When does the revolution start?” I had forgotten about the memory size (it’s probably been over 25 years since I read the book). But James mentioned that to me too. He seemed to think was a good book so far on Sunday when I talked to him about it. And he preferred reading the book to talking to his parents and siblings while waiting for lunch to be served at the restaurant.

    Thanks again for getting him involved in Heinlein. You’re making quite the good first impression on his father.

  22. Hrmmm….sounds alot like me. I always take a book everywhere, you never know when you are gonna need one! But talking to people is better than keeping your nose tucked into a book…at least sometimes :).

    I normally at least try to make good impressions with my friend’s parents, but at least this time it is easy!

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