26 February 2010

Human Spaceflight Exploration

We've lost valuable time

From 1965 until 1971 my wife and I were privileged to work at Cape Canaveral landing men on the moon in the Apollo-Saturn program. Recently my friend Mike Cox expressed disappointment regarding the impacts and implications of cutbacks in future manned space exploration and suggested a blog posting.

So Mike, this one’s for you.

We are huge fans of space science research and the technology advancements that accompany it. The Manned Space programs in the late 60’s and early 70’s brought amazing advancements in materials, communication, chemistry, aeronautics, medicine, mechanics, guidance, sensors, robotics, energy collection, circuitry, computer memory and programming; and many of them have found their way into everyday improvements in our lives. Those kinds of things and much unimaginable advancement would most certainly spin off from a wisely undertaken, innovatively managed and efficiently executed human spaceflight exploration program.

An affordable level of human spaceflight exploration should never have been stopped.

I am doubtful that NASA’s Constellation program is wise, innovative or efficient.

The national pride contest between the US and some sinister menace probably won’t work again to redirect national resources or effort, like it did in the 1960’s.

Maybe the most innovative way to achieve human space exploration objectives is international prizes, money or commercial franchises, to entice private enterprises and non-governmental organizations to risk their profit and their reputations; coupled with a much smaller NASA with reduced roles in mission planning, development and decision-making, and launch and mission execution.

The mission objectives could be linked to prizes and franchise rights like;

Objective: Demonstrate human spaceflight capability to go to and beyond the moon; land, deliver payload, and launch from the lunar surface and return safely to Spaceport USA.

Prize: $50 million dollars and concession rights for launch operations and commerce at Spaceport USA.

Objective: Establish and people a continuously occupied Spaceport Luna.

Prize: $100 million dollars and ninety nine year lunar concession for all commercial transport, habitation, commerce, natural resource, and tourism on the moon for all spaceflights originating and terminating in the continental USA.

Objective: Execute a human spaceflight to Mars, land, collect geophysical samples, launch and return people and samples safely to Spaceport USA.

Prize: A billion dollars and a ninety nine year interplanetary transport concession with exclusive Mars habitation and natural resource rights.

Objective: Establish and people a continuously occupied Spaceport Mars.

Prize: $100 billion dollars and a ninety nine year concession for transport, commerce and tourism to, from, around, and on Mars originating from Spaceports Luna or USA.

I think this fundamental idea and process would yield significantly faster progress in planetary space exploration and colonization, significantly speed up useful scientific discoveries and technology developments.

The idea of the government rewarding businesses and organizations for demonstrated capability, or faster development and completion of objectives is not at all unusual in our history. Intercontinental railways, canals, pony express, telegraph, undersea cable, radio and TV broadcast, electrical distribution, communication, orbital satellites, etc; all have had awards, rewards, franchises or concessions, many that still exist; making possible well known companies still operating today.

NASA is not without well deserved credit for many outstanding achievements, but at what costs in resources and lost opportunities. Their very poor management is bureaucratic, shortsighted and uninspiring. It is disappointing what they might have accomplished with the resources and time they have wasted. Have scientists, engineers or government officials do things, don’t let them manage things.

Just like the military is best at running things when our lives, liberty or pride are at stake; business organizations and individuals are best at getting it done when their money and their reputations are at stake.

Choose objectives, establish, guarantee, and advertise big prizes, impose only minimum restrictions and requirements, and get out of the way except to verify achievement before awarding the prize. Don’t exclude foreign enterprises and people or any reasonably qualified contestants.

Let’s hurry up and get restarted, we’re way behind where we should have been.

10 February 2010

Kit Carson

His Life and Times

American Frontiersman, Soldier, Western Guide, and Indian Agent

Born: December 24, 1809
Madison County, Kentucky
Died: May 23, 1868, Fort Lyon, Colorado
Buried: Taos, New Mexico

Kit Carson first gained fame as a distinguished guide for explorers in the frontier west of the Mississippi River; Carson soon became legend.

Before he became a legend

Christopher "Kit" Carson was born in Madison County, Kentucky, on December 24, 1809. His father, Lindsey Carson, married Rebecca Robinson in 1796. Kit was the sixth of ten children. The Carson family soon settled in Howard County, Missouri. When Kit was just nine years old, his father was killed in a tragic accident.

It is doubtful that Carson received much of a formal education. Although he spoke several languages, he remained unable to read and write his entire life. At the age of fourteen he became an apprentice to a saddlemaker. Carson left after a year joining a group of traders heading to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Life on the western frontier

Carson's career in the West spanned the years from 1825 to 1868, a period of rapid national expansion, exploration, and settlement. From 1827 to 1829 young Carson spent time working as a cook, driving a wagon, interpreting Spanish, and mining copper. In August 1829 he gained valuable experience trapping animals along the streams of Arizona and southern California.

In 1831 Carson returned to New Mexico, where he joined up with the experienced trapper, Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick (1799–1854). With Fitzpatrick's men, Carson headed north into the rugged central Rocky Mountains. For the next ten years, Carson worked as a trapper in what is today Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Carson learned what he needed, becoming a respected guide.

In 1836 Carson married an Arapaho Indian woman, Waa-Nibe, “Singing Grass.” The couple had two children, only a daughter survived. After his first wife died, Carson married a Cheyenne woman, “Making-Our-Road”. The marriage did not last, and Carson took his daughter to St. Louis, Missouri, for her education. For the next eight years, Carson split his time between his daughter in St. Louis and his trapping duties around Taos, New Mexico.

By 1842 Carson met and became engaged to the daughter of a prominent Taos family; Josefa Jaramillo. After receiving instruction, he was baptized into the Catholic Church. At 34 Carson married his third wife, 14-year-old Josefa, on February 6, 1843. They had eight children together.

A turning point

In 1842 explorer John C. Fremont landed in St. Louis. Fremont came looking to hire the well-known guide Andrew Drips to lead his expedition to the Wind River in Wyoming. Unable to find Drips, Fremont chose Carson. From June until September, Carson guided Fremont’s party west through South Pass to the Wind River Mountains and back to Missouri.

Over the next several years, Carson and Fitzpatrick worked as guides for Fremont on three expeditions through Oregon and California. The timing could not have been better for Fremont or Carson. The American public was fascinated with life in the West and the tales of hostile Indian tribes and unsettled land found on the western frontier. Fremont’s published reports on his expeditions soon became famous, as did Kit Carson. Although many of Carson's adventures became wildly exaggerated, no one denied his contributions to settling the American West. Many of Carson's accomplishments were popularized in Dr. De Witt C. Peters's 1858 book, The Life and Adventure of Kit Carson, the Nestor of the Rocky Mountains. (By referring to Carson as a nestor, Dr. Peters meant that Carson was a leader in his field.)

In his journal entry for April 18, 1844, Fremont wrote “We struck the great object of our search—The Spanish Trail—which here was running directly north.” He had reached the Old Spanish Trail above Cajon Pass at the edge of California’s South Coast Basin, just before the trail began its bend to the east, descending into the Mojave River Valley.

As the party worked its way across the Mojave Desert, it encountered two New Mexican refugees, a middle-aged man, Andrés Fuentes, and a boy, Pablo Hernández, who were the only survivors of a small party from Santa Fe, New Mexico that had been massacred by Indians who had killed two men, staked two women to the ground and mutilated them, and stolen 30 horses. The two had been out herding and escaped among the loose animals. They left the horses at Bitter Spring and continued west until their chance meeting with the Americans. The expedition reached Bitter Spring, the stock had been driven off by the Indians. Carson and Godey promptly volunteered to go in pursuit and attempt a recovery. They tracked the Native band, locating them, rushed into their encampment. They killed two, scattered the rest, and returned with the horses. Upon their return Fremont wrote dramatically in his journal, “This expedition of Carson and Godey may be considered among the boldest…in the annals of western adventure. Two men, in a savage desert, pursue day and night an unknown body of Indians…attack them on sight—defeat them in an instant—and for what? To punish the robbers of the desert and to avenge the wrongs to Mexicans whom they did not know, I repeat: it was Carson and Godey who did this.” This incident from Fremont’s second expedition report is probably where Kit Carson’s legend was born.

Other Mojave Incidents

On the Muddy River in Nevada, the party was surrounded and threatened by 300 hostile Indians. They may have been Southern Paiutes or possibly Utes on their way to coastal California to rustle livestock. Through sheer bravado, Carson dispersed the Indians when they refused his order to withdraw. Carson often surprised natives by threatening with bravado to kill their leaders first, in their native language.

Many episodes in his early career were linked to the Old Spanish Trail and the Mojave Desert. After delivering dispatches in Los Angeles he reported for military duty, since he was now a lieutenant. The governor assigned him to spend the winter in command of a detachment guarding Cajon Pass on the Old Spanish Trail. His instructions were to intercept thieves, Indians, or others who might be fleeing eastward with stolen animals.

A soldier's career

In 1846 Carson served in California with Fremont at the outbreak of the Mexican War 1846 - 1848 that resulted in U.S. ownership of much of what is now the American Southwest. His duties were quite dangerous, as he carried messages between command posts in enemy territory. When Carson was sent to Washington with dispatches, he was stopped by General Stephen W. Kearny (1794–1848) in New Mexico and ordered to lead his troops west to California. At the battle of San Pascual (1846) near San Diego, with Kearny's tired men losing the battle, Carson and two others slipped through enemy lines to go for reinforcements. Although Kearny's men were unable to take San Pascual, they soon captured San Diego, San Gabriel, and Los Angeles in rapid succession. Later, President James K. Polk (1795–1849) called Carson a hero and appointed him lieutenant in the mounted rifle regiment. However, the Senate rejected this appointment, and Carson returned to Taos.

Career as an Indian agent

By 1849 Carson had settled near Taos to farm and occasionally scouted for army units fighting hostile tribes. Carson also served in the Office of Indian Affairs, first as an agent and then as a superintendent of Indian affairs for the Colorado Territory. In 1854 he became the agent for several southwestern tribes. Carson worked for years to keep peace and ensure fair treatment of Native Americans.

While working for the Office of Indian Affairs, Carson often clashed with his superior, Territorial Governor David Meriwether. Carson disagreed with many of Meriwether's policies and thought that Native Americans were being treated unfairly. In 1856 their conflicts boiled over. Meriwether suspended Carson and later arrested, charging him with disobedience and cowardice. Carson soon apologized and got his job back as agent.

Back in the army

With the outbreak of the Civil War (1861–65), Carson left his position with Indian Affairs and was soon appointed a lieutenant colonel commanding the First New Mexico Volunteer Regiment. During the war, Carson fought against invading Confederates at the battle of Val Verde, NM. Carson also directed successful campaigns against the Apache and Navajo from 1862 until 1864, with final battles against the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache in the Texas panhandle. In 1865 he was appointed as brigadier general of volunteers and for the next two years held assignments in the West, leaving the army in 1867.

Conflicts with the Navajo

Army contact was prompted by a Navajo raid on Socorro, New Mexico near the end of September, 1846. General Kearny, passing nearby on his way to California learned of the raid and directed Col. William Doniphan to send a regiment of soldiers into Navajo country to secure a peace treaty.

At a winter meeting Col. Doniphan informed the Navajo that all their land now belonged to the United States, and the Navajo and New Mexicans were now the "children of the United States." In spite of this insult, the Navajo signed the Bear Spring treaty, on November 21, 1846. The treaty forbade the Navajo to raid or make war on the New Mexicans, but allowed the New Mexicans to make war on the Navajo, if they saw fit. Despite the treaty, the Navajo continued raids, as did the Apache, Ute, Comanche, and Kiowa.

On August 16, 1849 the U.S. Army began an expedition into the heart of Navajo country led by Col. John Washington, the military governor of New Mexico. The expedition included nearly a thousand infantry, hundreds of horses and mules, a supply train, 55 native Pueblo scouts, and four artillery guns.

On August 29–30, 1849, Washington's expedition needed water and food, and began pillaging Navajo cornfields. It was clear the Navajo intended to resist. Washington was still able to communicate that the Navajo and the whites could "still be friends, if the Navajo came with their chiefs the next day and signed a treaty."

The next day Chief Narbona came once again to "talk peace," along with several other headmen. An accord was reached on nearly every matter. When a New Mexican thought he saw his stolen horse and the Navajo protested its return, a scuffle broke out. The Navajo position was that the horse had passed through several other owners and now belonged to its Navajo owner. Col. Washington sided with the New Mexican. The Navajo owner took his horse and fled. Washington told the New Mexican to go pick out any Navajo horse he wanted. The Navajo figured out what was happening, and turned and fled. At this, Col. Washington ordered his soldiers to fire.

Seven Navajo were killed; the rest ran and could not be caught. One of the dying was Chief Narbona, who was scalped as he lay dying by a New Mexican souvenir hunter. This massacre prompted the warlike Navajo leaders such as Manuelito to gain influence over those who had advocated peace.

Carson's Navajo campaign

Raids by Native Americans had been constant up through 1862, and New Mexicans were demanding that something be done. Col. Canby devised a plan to remove Navajo to a distant reservation, but Canby was promoted to general and recalled east. His replacement as Commander of the Federal District of New Mexico was Brigadier General James H. Carleton.

Carleton believed that the Navajo conflict was the reason for New Mexico's "depressing backwardness." He turned to Kit Carson to help him fulfill his plans for upgrading New Mexico and his own career; Carson was nationally known and had helped boost the careers of several military commanders.

Carleton used the anxieties stirred up by the Confederate invasion and that the Texans might return. The territory was already on a war footing. The whole society was alert and inflamed; why not direct this energy toward something useful? Carleton immediately declared a state of martial law with curfews and mandatory passports for travel, then, brought all his authority to bear on cleaning up the Navajo mess.

Furthermore, Carleton believed there was gold in the Navajo's country and they should be driven out to allow development. Before Carleton's Navajo campaign he would force the Mescalero Apache to Bosque Redondo. Carleton ordered Carson to kill all the men of that tribe, and say that he had been sent to "punish them for their treachery and crimes."

Carson was appalled by this brutal order and refused to obey it. He accepted the surrender of more than a hundred Mescalero warriors who sought refuge with him, and relocated them within a month.

When Carson learned that Carleton intended for him to pursue the Navajo he sent a resignation letter dated February 3, 1863. Carleton refused to accept it and used his personal persuasion to maintain Carson's cooperation. Using language similar to that used on the Mescalero Apache, Carleton ordered Carson to lead an expedition against the Navajo, and to say to them, "You have deceived us too often, and robbed and murdered our people too long, to trust you again at large in your own country. This war shall be pursued against you if it takes years, now that we have begun, until you cease to exist or move. There can be no other talk on the subject."

Under Carleton's direction, Carson instituted a scorched earth policy, which eventually coerced the Navajo to surrender. He was aided by long-standing enemies of the Navajos, chiefly the Utes. Carson was pleased with the Utes, but they went home early when they could not keep what they took from the Navajo.

Carson also had difficulty with his New Mexico volunteers. Troopers deserted and officers resigned. Carson accepted resignations saying, "As I do not wish to have any officer in my command that is not contented or willing to put up with as much inconvenience and privations for the success of the expedition as I undergo myself."

There were no pitched battles, only a few skirmishes in the Navajo campaign. Carson rounded up and took prisoner every Navajo he could find. In January 1864, Carson sent a company into Canyon de Chelly to investigate the last Navajo stronghold. The Navajo surrendered because of lack of food supplies.

In the spring of 1864, 8,000 Navajo men, women and children were marched or rode in wagons 300 miles to Fort Sumner. Navajos call this “The Long Walk.” Although Carson had returned home to Taos before the march began, he is held responsible by some Navajo for breaking his word that they would not be harmed. Perhaps 300 died along the way and many more during the next four years on the reservation. In 1868, after signing a treaty with the U.S. government, these Navajos and thousands of non-reservation Navajo were allowed to return to their homeland, where a large Navajo Reservation exists around Canyon de Chelly today.

In 1868 Carson was appointed superintendent of Indian affairs for the Colorado Territory, but he never worked in this position. He died May 23, 1868, at Fort Lyon, Colorado.

Although Carson's later career in the army and his work with Native Americans was very impressive, the name Kit Carson will forever be linked to tales of the wild frontier and westward expansion.

For More Information


Burdett, Charles, LIFE OF KIT CARSON.

Carson, Kit. Kit Carson's Autobiography. Edited by Milo Milton Quaife. Chicago: R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 1935. Reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

Carter, Harvey L. Dear Old Kit: The Historical Christopher Carson. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968.

Ellis, Edward Sylvester. The Life of Kit Carson. Lake Wales, FL: Lost Classics Book Co., 1998.