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« Victims' Relatives Upset By Presidential Campaign Ad | Main | Not Your Father's Space Program »

Empire in the Sky

Via Mark Whittington, a piece in the Washington Times on a new age of exploration. The author, Jeremi Suri, asserts that the Bush space policy could be the start of a new age of exploration similar to that of the 17th and 18th centuries. This is certainly the hope of the vast majority of readers of this blog. The devil, as always, is in the details.

The age of exploration had a lot to do with the efforts of Prince Henry the Navigator, who more or less kickstarted the whole thing. Take a look at the timeline from Henry's early efforts (1420 onwards) until the beginning of real profitable trade (mid 1450s). The real overseas european empires didn't really take root for another century. Had Henry and his compatriots thrown all their energies into building an empire spanning the globe, they'd never have had the resources to do the little things that lead to the big things. As it is, they had some adventures, made a name for themselves, and some of them got quite rich. Along the way they laid the groundwork for the empires to come.

We are currently at the Henry the Navigator stage, and we should not lose sight of that fact. The next steps are small and modest, but necessary if we are to move on to bigger and better things. Bush was right to put the emphasis on return to the moon first, despite the fact that most commentators can't seem to get their minds off Mars. Mars will still be there in 30 years, or however long it takes. In the meantime we have the moon right there, staring us in the face. Near Earth Asteroids are being discovered so fast that it no longer makes news unless they are headed for a near collision with earth. Our Azores and our Guinea are waiting within reach.

Also worth checking out is the wikipedia page on Henry.

Posted by Andrew Case at March 05, 2004 11:04 AM
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