|Kids watch the moon landing.|
|Child pretending to be an astronaut.|
Since the 1960s and 1970s, the perception of space travel has changed from an inspiration to what some consider a waste of money (Note: this is not my opinion, but I don't write NASA's budget). The last flight of the space shuttle program was July 8, 2011. I was in Washington DC on April 17, 2012 when the Space Shuttle Discovery made its last flight over the Washington Mall, on its way to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. As far as we know, US space shuttles (and men on the moon) are now a thing of the past. Does that mean an end to the legacy of discovery?
The legacy of Discovery actually goes much further back than missions to space. The Space Shuttle Discovery was named after four scientific sailing ships from the days of British exploration:
- HMS Discovery - Sailed By Captain James Cook during his Voyages from 1776 to 1779.
- Discovery - sailed by Henry Hudson in 1610–1611 to search for a Northwest Passage.
- HMS Discovery - took Captain George Nares to the North Pole in 1875–1876
- RRS Discovery - under the command of Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton sailed to Antarctica in 1901–1904.
Of these, Captain Cook's voyages were the most far reaching - he circumnavigated the globe, multiple times. His last voyage, which happened to be on the HMS Discovery ended in Hawaii, when he was struck on the head while trying to kidnap King Kalaniʻōpuʻu of Hawaii (a not unjustified reaction by the Hawaiians, in my opinion).
|Cook's voyages. The third voyage (on the Discovery) is shown in blue. |
The red line shows the route of the Endeavor (Cook's first voyage) and
the green line is the second voyage on the Resolution. (from wikipedia)
Many other space shuttles have been named after scientific vessels. The Endeavor was named after Cook's first ship (shown in green, above). The Challenger Shuttle was named after yet another scientific research vessel, as was the Atlantis (named after Wood's Hole's first scientific research vessel). When humankind looked to a new frontier, we remembered the sea. And we named our "ships" accordingly.
|Captain Cook's discovery and the Space Shuttle that shares its name. (photos from wikipedia)|
|A Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe greets one of Cook's vessels.|
Art by Herb Kane.
|Hokulea, which is in the Bootes constalation |
(photo from astropixels.com)
Since 1976, the Hōkūle‘a has sailed on over 10 voyages, from Hawaii to Tahiti, Japan, Pago Pago, and Australia (to list only a few). Her next trip will be a worldwide voyage, starting with a sail to Tahiti, and passing by New Zealand, the Indian Ocean, Africa, North and South America, and the Galapagos (again, only listing a few).
|The Hōkūle‘a voyage sail plan. Compare with Cook's voyages, above.|
The inspiration for the worldwide voyage came during a conversation between Pinky Thompson, and Lacy Veach, an astronaut who flew on both the Discovery and the Colombia. As Lacy looked out the shuttle window at the islands of Hawaii far below, he "saw the islands and the planet in one vision – that planet earth was just an island like Hawai‘i, in an ocean of space, and that we needed to take care of them both if the planet was to remain a life-giving home for humanity."
|Hawaii from the Shuttle Colombia. Lacy took a Hawaiian adz stone|
with him into space. (Photo by Lacy Veach, from the PVS website).
This seems especially poetic to me. The inspiration for this worldwide voyage literally originated in space, which will provide the navigation. With the retirement of the Space Shuttle Discovery, the US has ended (or perhaps paused) one legacy of scientific exploration. But the Hōkūle‘a, which is named for a star, is part of another, older, legacy. Dreamed up among, named for, and navigated by the stars, her goal on this voyage is to link the ocean peoples on earth, making new discoveries and teaching how to protect our common home.
"Man’s perpetual curiosity regarding the unknown has opened many frontiers. Among the last to yield to the advance of scientific exploration has been the ocean. Until recent years much more was known about the surface of the moon than about the vast areas that lie beneath three-fourths of the surface of our own planet.”
F.P Shepard, 1948
Note: I probably got a lot of things wrong in this blog post, and oversimplified a lot of things, since I'm not an expert in 1) the space program or 2) polynesian voyaging and history. However, the links between space travel, ocean research voyages, and the multiple links of both of these with the Hōkūle‘a. were too fascinating for me not to write down. If you want more information about Polynesian Voyaging, please check out the PVS webpage, and NASA is a good resource to learn about Space Travel. If you ever get a chance to hear Ninoa Thompson give a talk, GO.
Also, I couldn't find a place to work it in, but I thought I'd mention and link to Craig McClain's great piece on Why We Need a NASA for the Oceans.
*30 years ago, the Hawaiian Language was in very real danger of disappearing.
** In yet another coincidence, the emblem for the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) is derived from an illustration from the logbooks of the HMS Challenger, yet another research vessel with a space shuttle named after her.
|Challenger illustration. From the NOAA archives.|
*** These lines are often quoted, and have been an inspiration (through David Attenborough's reference to them in Blue Planet) to thousands of nascent marine biologists (including myself).