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viewpoint

Pushing frontiers

| Thursday, February 12, 2015

Throughout human history, brave explorers have answered the call to venture into the unknown, risking life and limb to expand humans’ interaction with the world around us. Everyone remembers Christopher Columbus, who is credited with discovering the “New World” in 1492, as well as Lewis and Clark who made the perilous journey to the Pacific in 1804. Then, in 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to successfully summit Mount Everest. After reaching coastlines all across the world and reaching the highest point on Earth, some began to wonder what could be next. That next frontier was space.

In 1962, fueled by the arms race of the Cold War, President John F. Kennedy stated, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade,” setting the wheels in motion for unprecedented exploration of human limitation. July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong took “one giant leap for mankind,” becoming the first human to step foot on another celestial body.

The world looked on as we made this first step in venturing away from the pale blue dot that we call home. But what progress has been made in the past 45 years? As far as human exploration: not much. There hasn’t even been a man back on the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

But all hope is not lost. In the past few years, the face of space exploration has been renewed with the success of companies like SpaceX that see commercial spaceflight as the next step in human exploration. This rebirth has spurred on the true potential for a human mission to our planetary neighbor, Mars. Despite facing a miniscule budget, NASA is continuing work on missions that hope to send men to asteroids and even Mars by the 2030s, although we may not even need to wait that long. The Mars One mission, a Dutch based mission, is working fervently toward getting the first crew onto Mars to establish a human settlement by 2025 and then sending another crew every two years to build on the settlement.

It is inevitable. People will continue to push frontiers and this will certainly lead to a man on Mars by the time we are our parents’ age. What an amazing thought that is. When the first human steps onto the red planet, we will have reached an amazing point in our history: We can officially be classified as an interplanetary species, a reclassification that will mark a new era in human history. It will be an unbelievable feeling to be a human when this day comes. The only question now is: “When will we get there and who will be Mars’s Christopher Columbus?”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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