What Freedom Meant to Our Ancestors

Today, when we talk about America as a land of freedom, we tend to think about freedom (or the lack of it) from taxes and regulation, or we celebrate our Bill of Rights. The early settlers in America—those who came voluntarily—sought freedom of a more literal nature. They were escaping religious terrorism, government intolerance, and, often, the bondage of serfdom or poverty. This independent spirit led to the American spirit, long before the Revolution. Americans were colonizers in much the way we can imagine colonizers on Mars. The early voyages from Europe actually took longer than a trip to Mars will take. Like future Mars colonists, the American colonists and successive immigrants had to bring their own supplies and learn how to sustain themselves in a new environment. Unlike future Martians, the American colonists had scarce communications with the homeland; and they faced the understandable resentment of humans who had settled the lands centuries before.

The American colonists, in other words, provide a precedent for our ventures beyond the Gravity Well. More than that, they created an example for the world, of a place that represented the leading edge of innovation, invention, and discovery. Only recently have we risked losing that reputation.