This month we celebrate Christopher Columbus’ voyage of 1492.  In a recent article in the newspaper we were reminded of a similar voyage that took place just 50 years ago—the voyage into space.

Astronaut Scott Carpenter, age 88, died this week leaving the sole surviving original astronaut, John Glenn, age 92, to wish him Godspeed as he did when Scott blasted off on his mission into the barely known outer space.

We might think about the parallels with Columbus’ voyage in 1492 and the astronauts’ journey into space.  Columbus set off into unknown territory looking for a new trade route.  His navigation system was what we call it today, “dead reckoning.” This system works by establishing a point and gauging the direction and space from that location as you move.    To succeed with this technique a measuring device was required, usually a magnetic compass (a Chinese invention during the Qin dynasty 221-206 B.C).  This resulted in nothing but vast ocean day-after-day, trusting they would find their way.  We know they found the New World and two of the three ships returned to Spain.  Columbus made a total of four trips and kept comprehensive logs outlining his journeys. An amazing feat of navigation!

The early astronauts also blasted off into uncharted territory trusting Houston to get them there and back.  Imagine seeing the Earth getting smaller and smaller while hurtling around in a cramped capsule.  They circled the Earth and then splashed down safely in the very ocean that Christopher Columbus navigated 500 years ago, thereby opening the door for men on the moon and further space travel.

We remember and honor all who led the way.

Sue Stehle
Commemorative Events Chair

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