Are We There Yet

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March 14, 2011 by David Gillaspie

When Is The End Really The End

President Kennedy asked for a man on the moon.

When American Presidents demand bold action, they get bold results.    

You hope he checked with his engineers.

Apollo 11 happened early on President Nixon’s watch, followed by Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17. 

Each one had a moon-walker.

With a similar request, President Thomas Jefferson told Lewis and Clark to find a waterway to the west.

Done. 

Or was it?

From a distant perspective we seem we know enough about Lewis and Clark, that all the scholarship on their journey of discovery is complete. 

It’s not.

Rex Ziak says it’s not.

Maybe you want to listen to him, read his books.

Who asked the most of their countrymen, Jefferson or Kennedy?  Which journey would you rather take, a walk into the wild, or a flight into darkness?

If time plays a main factor in your decision, take the flight.  It lasted eight days, from July 16 through July 24.

Lewis and Clark started out May 14, 1804, returning September 23, 1806.  Over two years. 

For one you released the straps of the modern world; for the other you strap into a seat and become part of the machinery throwing you into space, going through checklists and check-downs.

Your ball is to the right of that log

The moon crew took a golf club along for a swing in moon gravity.  Golf was around for Lewis and Clark, too, but who wanted to carry more than they had to?  Besides, if you think the video from the moon-scape was scratchy, imagine the HD quality on a Lewis and Clark driving dual over the Great Divide.

Kennedy promised to put an American on the moon.  One wasn’t enough?  They’re still not done.  Nations eyeing the moon include China, India, Japan, and Russia among others.

Wiki reports, “On September 13, 2007, the X Prize Foundation, in concert with Google, Inc., announced the Google Lunar X Prize.  This contest requires competitors “to land a privately funded robotic rover on the Moon that is capable of completing several mission objectives, including roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to the Earth.””

Lewis and Clark presents a different challenge.  Jefferson wanted an America that ran coast to coast, and got it.

Timothy Egan reports in the New York Times, “On Nov. 7, 1805, Clark made his famous sighting of ”Ocien in View.” For decades now, historians have said he was wrong; he could not have seen the ocean because a narrow peninsula at the mouth of the river blocks the view.

But by superimposing maps of the lower Columbia over Clark’s sight line, a logger’s son, Rex Ziak, said he found that Clark had not been wrong. The land changed, not the event. He said a jetty, created more than 100 years ago, altered ocean and river currents, and moved the mouth of the Columbia.

On such epiphanies, the story refuses to fade. ”I think the real history of Lewis and Clark will be written not by academics, but by thousands of people who live along the route and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute,’ ” said Mr. Ziak, who has just published a book, ”In Full View” (Moffitt House Press), on the cold and chaotic November that Lewis and Clark spent on the lower Columbia before building a fort.”

Later, trail guides told overland travelers deciding to go over the mountain or down the Columbia, “it won’t matter, once you’re on one you’ll wish you chose the other.”

If you’ve been to the Oregon or Washington coast in bad winter weather, the choice between going to the moon or on the Lewis and Clark Expedition is easy, especially if you can’t eat wild game.

For the rest of the world, the moon landings are captured in old photos and video.

Here in the Northwest, the Corps of Discovery is still down the road waiting for you to find it.  Pack a lunch and a good map and get started. 

History still happens here.

By David Gillaspie

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