30 April 2011


VOYAGER. In the late 1970s, two unmanned scientific probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were launched to explore Jupiter and Saturn. Both spacecraft were so well designed and versatile that their missions were expanded to include all the planets of the outer solar system. Now, 34 years later, NASA has announced that the Voyager probes are about to extend their incredible journeys into interstellar space. Arguably the greatest success story among all projects launched to explore space, manned or unmanned, the Voyager program is the gift that keeps on giving. Click here to view a four minute NASA video on this intrepid pair of explorers, and their approach to a threshold no other craft has ever crossed -- the edge of the heliosphere (see image below) and the great interstellar space beyond. Voyagers, long may you sail !

LOUISIANA PURCHASE. On this date in 1803, the U.S. acquired 828,800 square miles of France's claim to a large portion of the interior of North America. The Louisiana Purchase (see map below, click to enlarge) cost the U.S. a mere $15 million ($219 million in 2010 dollars), and nearly doubled the territorial size of the nation. The boundaries included what eventually became all or part of 14 current U.S. states. The acquisition legitimized U.S. expansion across the continent, in what later came to be known as the doctrine of Manifest Destiny -- a rationalization for U.S. entry into the group of colonialist nations whose theft of land and resources from native inhabitants had proceeded for 300 years, and would proced for another 100 years. According to Wikipedia, "Napolean Bonaparte, upon completion of the agreement, stated 'This acquisition of territory affirms forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a maritime rival who sooner or later will humble her pride.' "

Given our ongoing avarice for land, resources, and power, by purchase or by military conquest, it appears that Napolean was correct. But at what cost to our souls?

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