Water Ice at North Pole of Mars © European Space Agency Mars Express 28 July 2005.
The colonization of Mars seems inevitable if we look to the precedents of human nature – if we can conceive of it, we will do it. Every void of ignorance and experience is an undiscovered country. But the uncertainty of such efforts inevitably provokes fear as much as it inspires. The embrace of the unknown renders it comprehensible and even mundane. It can take hundreds of years for society to successfully absorb that transition in thinking.
Hence the Norse exploration of the New World, 500 years before John Cabot in 1497, is dismissed as fantasy or legend. This manuscript, the Saga of Eirik the Red, recounts Eirik’s finding of Greenland and the discovery of Vinland, thought to be Newfoundland, by his son Leif the Lucky. (To read Erik the Red's saga online, click here and here.)
Saga of Eirik the Red, early 14th century manuscript about Eirik’s discovery of Greenland and his son Leif the Lucky, found Vinland. Arnamagæan Collection, Copenhagen, N. 544, 4 to: Hauksók, beginning of the 14th century.
Even as this possible earliest European contact with North America remains shrouded in mystery, the passage still introduces familiar elements of exploration. The cutting edge of technology propels us to the edge of our understanding, which quickly leaves the realm of science and becomes the property of religion, politics, philosophy and spiritualism. The translation of this paragraph from Eirik’s saga reads:
"One day the king [Olaf Tryggvason] spoke to Leif, saying, 'Do you mean to go out to Greenland this summer?'From the beginning, this first step in the European discovery of North America was bound up with a way of viewing the world. Technological advance is only a catalyst to exploration and dreams of power. Those dreams are inevitably shaped by the religious and spiritual values of explorers daring enough to go beyond the realms we know. If explorers started with religion, they soon followed with philosophy, economics and politics as motivating factors for their next endeavour - colonization.
'That I do,' said Leif, 'if it be your will.'
The king answers, 'I believe it will be well, and you shall go thither on my errand and announce the Christian faith there.'
Leif said it should be as he would, but this seemed to him a hard errand to carry out in Greenland.
The king said that he saw no man better suited to the task than he - 'and luck will go with you.'
'Only if I have yours,' says Leif. Leif puts out to sea and is long voyaging, and he made landfall where he had never before expected to find land; there was self-sown wheat there, and vines; there were trees of the kind called Maple - and all of these they brought some tokens; some timbers so large that they were used for house-building.
Leif found men on a wreck and brought them home with him. In this he showed the greatest nobility and manliness, as in much else, when he brought the Christian faith to the land, and was ever since called Leif the Lucky."
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