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Those who reach towards the sky

April 11, 2018
BY CHUCK CLEGG - Columnist , Wetzel Chronicle

Recently in the news, there was a story about a man in California named Mike Hughes who designed and built a rocket. Mr. Hughes is not the first person to build a rocket in an attempt to launch himself into history.

Why did this man, who obviously must have a great deal of skill, attempt such a feat? Could it be he wanted to be the first man to fly, propelled by the power of steam? Maybe he wanted to see the earth just over the horizon? Both are most likely true. He wanted to see if the earth was flat. To do this, he decided he needed a steam-powered rocket to lift him high enough to look for himself. Don't laugh, it turns out there are people who still believe the earth is a flat as a pancake.

Before you begin to think this man's attempt was some sort of a stunt, I would point out he traveled nearly nineteen hundred feet straight up into the blue sky and returned alive. No small feat for a man that others said his efforts would be impossible.

In 1974, Evil Knievel attempted to cross the Snake River in a steam-powered motorcycle rocket. He is remembered as one of the greatest dare devils of the last century. I am not sure how far he traveled before his parachute deployed, dropping him into the canyon and ending his attempted daring crossing. Could it have been as far as Hughes did in his steam rocketnot sure, but you have to give them both credit for having a great deal of courage to try what others say was impossible.

Elon Musk and Sir Richard Branson are two adventurous business men who are also attempting to conquer space. These two men must also have dreams of someday going into space, much like Mike Hughes tried. Musk and Branson will have spent millions attempting to bring their dreams to reality. The rocket that carried Hughes skyward reportedly cost a mere twenty thousand dollars. All three men realize the answers they seek can only be found looking down on the earth from above.

Hughes, with not much more than his courage and sense of exploration, strapped himself into his home made rocket to answer the question, is the world flat? I myself believe that question was answered long ago. In a sense, I took the words of other when making the determination of the earth's shape.

Over five hundred years ago, seamen sailed out to explore the vast oceans of a world they believed to be flat. Some returned and told of new worlds without falling off the feared edge. Others never returned and were lost to the mysteries of the sea. I am sure none of those who failed to return sailed off the edge of the earth. Just think about it, they sailed towards the horizon looking for answers. Even the most confident of them must have harbored some fears the ocean may disappear over the edge. Still, they ventured forth into the unknown. Maybe Hughes, Musk and Branson had ancestors who were sailors in the 1400s. Could they have stood at the bow of their ships and stared into the void of the sea with wonder and questions? Maybe.

Mike Hughes, with that same sense of wonder, wanted to look over the earth's edge to answer for himself, is the earth flat? Is he one of those rare people, who is not willing to simply accept the answers so called normal people already know? For myself, I have to admire the man for making the attempt. The history of mankind is littered with those who were not satisfied with what others told them. They wanted to see for themselves. Leonardo da Vinci, who we now revere as a great scientist and inventor, was thought to be crazy during his life. He even went so far as to predict that someday man would fly. Today, we know him as a man with the insight to ask, why not?

Mike Hughes is one of those few people who is willing to stretch what he knows beyond the safety of the earth surface. If each of us was afraid to look over the edge at some point in our lives, the world would be a far less exciting place to live. If Mr. Hughes had the financial resources of others, he may be known as an innovator or visionary. Then he would be the one on the cover of Newsweek pointing towards the sky and saying, "I want to see what's beyond the earth's edge, as we look Through the Lens."

 
 
 

 

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