Charles Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh in 1927

In terms of historical figures who have shaped my plan to go to Mars, Charles Lindbergh is probably the most significant influence. He is famous primarily for becoming the first person to fly a heavier-than-air aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. His 33 1/2 hour flight is significant not just because he was the first person to perform this amazing feat, but what’s more he did it alone.

Lindbergh’s journey was motivated by a prize offered by a wealthy business owner named Raymond Orteig who offered $25,000 for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris. Multiple teams had attempted the venture, but none had succeeded and several had perished in the effort. Lindbergh’s plan broke with convention of the time on several accounts. First, he was conducting the journey as the sole occupant of his aircraft, where most of his competition had two or three crew members. Second, he used a single-engine aircraft as opposed to the multi-engine airplanes that other teams were employing. He also conducted the entire journey on a budget of approximately $18,000, compared to his competitors’ budgets of up to $100,000. These factors are what have really inspired me to think differently about how to get to Mars.

Charles Lindbergh was successful in his crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, and the world got a little smaller. Overnight he became a worldwide celebrity, for better or for worse. Fame brought great tragedy with the kidnapping and murder of his infant son, and public scrutiny for his support of U.S. isolationism during the days leading up to World War 2. However, his fame also opened great opportunities for shaping the future of aviation around the world, promoting research into rocketry in the U.S., helping develop the first artificial heart pump, and advocating for environmental protection. He became one of the most influential individuals of his time and left an amazing legacy of courage and service.

The most notable traits that I would like to learn from Charles Lindbergh are determination, courage, service, humility, fastidiousness, and adventurousness. Recognizing of course that he was only human- as am I- one trait that Lindbergh seemed to possess that I would try to avoid is reclusiveness. It’s difficult to blame him for shying away from the limelight after the death of his son, but alienating the media and the public ultimately resulted in him becoming tragically misunderstood. Even today many people regard Lindbergh as a Nazi sympathizer and a racist (accusations for which I haven’t found a basis in my readings) rather than recognizing his contributions to humanity. I especially admire that he did the best he could to use the privileges he had to serve his fellow men.

Charles Lindbergh died in 1974 and was buried on the island of Maui, Hawaii.