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GeographyMapping Unknown Lands
How Do We All Get Around?
Indian Spatial Concepts

Navigating in Space

magine the difficulty for a person with either the horizontal or vertical perspective in getting around in "outer" space rather than "earth" space. In traveling from the earth to the moon, for example, four dimensions are necessary: the traditional north-south-east-west horizontal coordinates, the vertical coordinates of up, down, and the fourth dimension of time.

Hitting the moon from the earth is shooting at a moving target from a moving platform and this requires elaborate calculations done (for reasons of speed and accuracy) by supercomputer instead of simple navigational instruments like those used by Lewis and Clark.

On the other hand, hitting the moon from the earth is not all that different from the hunter's instinctive process, perhaps from the back of a moving horse, of making a snap estimate of how far away an animal is, how fast it is running, what the wind speed and direction is, and how to hold a rifle on a point so that after the trigger is pulled and the firearm discharges, a certain part of the animal's anatomy and the slug from the rifle are going to arrive at the same point in space at the same time.

Lewis and Clark readily shot at moving targets--deer or elk or buffalo. How well do you think they would have done in making the elaborate calculations necessary to navigate from the earth to the moon?

--John Logan Allen

How Do We All Get Around?
Indian Spatial Concepts

From Discovering Lewis & Clark ®, http://www.lewis-clark.org © 1998-2014
by The Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, Washburn, North Dakota.
Journal excerpts are from The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, edited by Gary E. Moulton
13 vols. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983-2001)