The Power to Dream

January 28, 2009
By Irteza Binte-Farid SILVER, Charlottesville, Virginia
Irteza Binte-Farid SILVER, Charlottesville, Virginia
7 articles 10 photos 0 comments

Men have always loved to explore, to discover more about themselves and the world around them. Nevertheless, there are few in history who had the courage and spirit of an explorer. Christopher Columbus was one such man, one who was willing to face the unknown with its risks, uncertainty, and even death. Though he must have been scared to leave everything familiar behind, he found strength in his determination to fulfill his dream, and thus left a legacy on our world. Not many have ever measured up to Columbus, but in contemporary times, the astronauts are noteworthy candidates. They too had the same driving spirit of an explorer, the desire to discover a new world and reach their full potential. However, even with resolve, these explorers faced numerous obstacles on their way to greatness.
When Columbus presented his idea to monarchs of Europe, he was laughed out of court. However, he stayed loyal to his vision, and after seven years he finally received a chance to propose his idea to Spain. He emphasized the political and economic influence Spain would have over enemies if he discovered a passage to the Indies. After the voyage of Vasco da Gama, Spain desperately wanted to gain the upper hand, and they granted Columbus's request. Thus, he set sail with the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria on August 3, 1492. He did not have anything to guide him except the compass and his own theories and intuition.
Though the Apollo astronauts had more technology and prior knowledge from former Apollo expeditions, their journey was also fueled by competition. In the Cold War era, US was in the space race with Soviet Union and determined to send the first man to space. Although the astronauts were fully aware of the dangers of space-flight, specially after the Apollo 1 fire, they were willing to risk their lives for glory'for themselves and their country. However, just becoming a NASA astronaut involved arduous testing and being chosen for Apollo 11 involved even more rigorous examinations. When Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were finally chosen, they spent months practicing procedures and landing the lunar module. By their departure time, these astronauts were ready for the moon after years of preparation, just as Columbus was ready after years of perfecting his plan. These men truly had faith in themselves and their ideas to dedicate their lives to its cause.
Yet even with such a staunch belief in his idea, Columbus must have felt some doubt as he stared at the endless sea before him. As his men grew ready to mutiny, he must have seen his lifelong dream slipping away. Then the shout must have come on the fateful day of October 12, 1492''Land ho!''beautiful and full of hope, restoring faith in all men. What joy Columbus must have felt as he beheld the New World, the physical reality of his dream and the promise of a glorious future! Though it was not the Indies Columbus discovered, and though greed and mistreatment of the Native Americans would taint his legacy, his discovery, nevertheless, expanded the world's horizon and initiated the first age of exploration. Since then, men like the astronauts, have carried on the spirit of explorers, in hopes of leaving their own contribution to the world.
As Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins launched into space on July 16, 1969, on board Columbia, they must have felt the same hope, anticipation, and joy Columbus had experienced. When they looked into space, all they could see was a fragile blue Earth, reminding them of home. Yet they continued into the unknown, and after a four day journey, they eagerly waited to land. However, their landing site was a crater, and Armstrong had to skillfully maneuver The Eagle, the lunar module, to the Sea of Tranquility. When Armstrong finally stepped onto the gray, rock-strewn surface of the moon, he declared, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Indeed, it was a giant leap for mankind, for that day another new world was discovered, and the power of dreams was proven once more.
Columbus and the astronauts were ordinary men who became extraordinary because they had strength to believe in themselves and their ideas, and had the desire to discover what no man had encountered before. However, we do not revere them just for their discoveries but because they proved that every single one of us has potential for greatness if we have the courage to truly believe in our dreams.

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