I’ve been thinking a lot about exploring lately.
It’s not so much that I personally am undertaking any great challenges. If we’re being honest, I can’t even summon the will to think about losing one single hour this month. (I will say, though, that if I had to pick a month to lose an hour of, chilly March would be at the top of the list.)
My thoughts lately have actually turned more skyward. During these frigid evenings, I’ve been learning about the human journey into space — specifically to the moon. The book “A Man on the Moon” and the Natrona County Library’s copy of the HBO miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon” have been my guides, and I recommend both if you, too, are hoping to broaden your horizons beyond your living room this winter.
For me, this is actually a journey that started in the lead-up to the solar eclipse that dimmed the sunlight over Casper last summer. I worked full-time for this newspaper then, and we all had the pleasure of learning the ins and outs of solar eclipses, from knowing how to spot and describe the fiery corona and other visual spectacles of the day to knowing what to expect at each stage of the eclipse as the moon slowly bit into the sun. And even though all interested parties along the path of the eclipse learned plenty in advance of the big day, nothing can quite prepare you to absorb the fact that you are actually standing in the long, dark shadow of the moon.
Another fact that is difficult to grasp is that we’ve actually sent humans to the moon. I know it happened. I know that actually more than a few people have left their footprints there. I have recently learned that one of those people — Alan Shepard, America’s first astronaut — was the earliest-born person to go to the moon. Birth year usually has little to do with how we describe lifetime achievements, but when you see when Shepard was born — 1923 — it’s hard not to stop and think of the scientific progress that was made in his lifetime. We sent someone to the moon who was born in 1923!
This amazing history has come up in the news recently, with the company SpaceX working with NASA to see whether it is feasible to send American astronauts into space on an American vessel — maybe as soon as this summer. (Boeing, too, is teaming up with the space agency in a similar effort.) SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which is now occupied by a mannequin but is where humans eventually would ride, successfully docked with the International Space Station over the weekend. This is promising news for those who are excited about American space travel.
And while space travel is unlikely to be part of my own future, these recent developments do significantly raise the bar for what other humans are accomplishing in terms of adventure and achievement. Let’s allow ourselves to be inspired. We can spend the rest of winter hibernating under a blanket if we like, but come spring, it will be time for us to explore our own space.
We may not be traveling to the moon, but we do have the clear advantage of being able to breathe our own sweet Wyoming air along the way. We can foster our own senses of adventure as we make journeys to places we remember or those we have never seen before. Either way, we will make new memories and leave our own footsteps as we explore new pockets of the universe we share. I hope to see you out there!