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The spirit of exploration lives

October 14, 2013
Weirton Daily Times

While the United States is threatened with a loss of standing because it cannot get its political house in order long enough to get spending put in check, it's time today to mark Columbus Day.

Christopher Columbus did not create Obamacare, government gridlock, the EPA or the Constitution. He was motivated by a combination of the spirit of exploration and a desire to tap into unknown riches and found a way to fund a journey into the unknown.

Columbus didn't give up, asking again and again for pay for his journey. He finally captured the attention of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and set off in August 1492, stopping in the Canary Islands and then setting off into a world that simply was a question mark.

Anyone who has looked upon the re-creation of the great explorer's ships should recognize the courage of the explorer, for they were tiny and sailed into the unknown with open decks, sails and little else.

Columbus sailed beyond the horizon for five weeks, landing in the New World on Oct. 12, 1492.

It is easy to see that the spirit of the explorer, seeking new frontiers, still exists in the modern world, 500 and more years later. The spirit is exemplified by those aboard the International Space Station, seeking to show that man can live, work and study in space despite coming from different national backgrounds.

One of the pioneers of that era, astronaut Scott Carpenter, died last week at age 88. When he was 37 years old, in May 1962, he undertook the mission that led him to being listed among the greats of exploration, with a four-hour, 56-minute flight aboard the Mercury space ship Aurora 7. Anyone who has gazed upon a Mercury capsule in a museum recognizes the same kind of spirit that Columbus and his men had must have been alive and well in the Mercury 7 astronauts, for the Mercury looks for all the world like a high-tech version of an old Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. corrugated trash can stuffed with a seat and some primitive (by today's standards) electronic gear.

Carpenter manually flew his re-entry following the failure of some of that primitive gear, setting him apart even among the courageous early astronaut corps as someone very special, though there is debate over whether he had caused his own peril by failing to listen to directives from mission controllers.

Regardless, as with the other astronauts, we think of Carpenter this Columbus Day as an example of the kind of man who can advance and who can help his nation advance when the conditions are right, much like Columbus did in his time.

 
 

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