“Homestead”

One way.  No return.  No idea how to make a living there, or build shelter, or get food or water, or escape the elements.  Hundreds of thousands volunteer to go.

Thousands of years ago we trekked across a now gone land bridge from Africa to western Europe, and from Asia across another ancient bridge over the Bering Strait to Alaska and down into the North American Continent and then South America.  A balsa raft carried us to what is now Hawaii.  When the earth was flat, we sailed away from land anyway to see how far we had to go to find dragons.  When free land was made available in the grassy sea of middle America, we left successful businesses, safe homes, extended families to stake a claim and live in badger holes, drink from buffalo wadis, endure cold and ice and snow and locusts and relentless heat and drought.  We strapped ourselves into capsules the size of small cars atop engines that threw us into airless space to walk on desolate moonscapes.

We volunteered.  We rioted to be allowed aboard the ships.  To go.  To see.  To dream.  We went…always.

What a strange species we are.  We trust that we will find a way to live, endure, create, thrive, last.  We risk it all, time and time again, to become something we are not, yet something we have always been.  What is beyond the sea?  Over the mountain?  In the prairie?  On the moon?  On the next planet?

Why?  Why do we continue to take these chances?  Thousands have died.  Thousands more have lived, and they all have made us all richer for their daring.  Not monetarily, perhaps, but richer collectively in the knowledge we have gained about “what is out there” and what we are capable of achieving if we just dare.

The “final frontier” is beckoning.  The next step seems to be another one-way trip.  This time to the “Red Planet”—Mars.  Again, thousands have signed up to go where no one has ever gone before.  To walk, and work, and live, and die on another world.  No, they’re not crazy people in one of those weird states back East or out West.  Some of them are right here, or have been.

Lulu Ferdous, born in Bangladesh but a 2012 UNO grad, is one of the 1,058 selected in the first cut from over 200,000 applicants for that first trip to Mars.  The pool will be cut to 24 next year to begin training for the planned 2025 launch.  Those who applied and those who will eventually make the trip know already that there is no plan to bring them back to Earth.  It will take seven months just to get there with current technology.  As that technology changes, so may their chances of actually making a return trip.  Much has to be imagined, invented, created, tested, implemented before then.  That’s not new.

When President Kennedy said that we would put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, we (humans worldwide) could barely get into orbit.  The computer technology I am using to write this hadn’t even been developed enough at the time to run a digital wristwatch.  Before they left in 1969, we even had Tang!

I’m already too old or I might have applied myself.  (There are other reasons, too—I still can’t do math.)  But I hope I am still around to watch the launch and track their progress and hear the first reports as they step onto an alien world.  I’ve been trying to keep up with our quest for space travel since I first heard of the launch of Sputnik in 1957.

Our first Martians will have all sorts of adventures, I’m sure.  Just getting ready will be one thing.  The whole experience is sure to be a lulu.  Take pictures.

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