The Earthonaut

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What is an Earthonaut

Earthonaut is a term I invented for a brave friend and his new occupation as explorer and adventurer using a necessary life support system.


COPD Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a major cause of disability. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States and it is estimated that 3 million people in the UK are living with the disease. One of the treatments is oxygen therapy.


One of my friends has recently been diagnosed with serious lung problems. He has to use oxygen from tanks at least 15 hours a day and has a limit of two hours out of the house with his portable supply. He is a brave and inspiring individual who was brave and inspiring long before this new development. While doing some research about oxygen therapy I discovered a wonderful blog site called Living on O2 For Life. Christine, the blog's author, is in the same boat as my friend. Her blog is a treasure trove. Much of it is practical advice about living with O2 but it is also full of wisdom and advice for everyone. It seems that there are amazing and inspiring people everywhere I look.

And I say to myself, what a wonderful world

People have carried oxygen across a quarter of a million miles of space in bottles and tanks to walk in the sterile lunar landscape and they have mixed O2 with helium to spend time as deep as they can in the coldness and pressure under the deep ocean. Others take bottled oxygen to scuba dive on holiday and visit the denizens of the sea.

I can imagine humans in the future travelling out into the vastness of space across unimaginable distances into other star systems to live on hostile planets. They will have to carry their oxygen and find ways to recycle it, perhaps even from their own bodies. Maybe they will spend generations needing breathing apparatus to go outside of their living shelters on those distant planets. Perhaps they might eventually evolve lungs capable of breathing the gasses of those other skies.
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That makes one ask might their distant descendants come back across space to re-explore the Earth? Would we still be here? Would it be an Earth that humans have abandoned because we not have heeded the warning and saved the environment? Humans are a resilient lot though and although it is our nature to explore it is also our nature to survive. I like to think that our cousins from the stars will be welcomed no matter how they have changed.

I like to picture my Earthonauts finding an Earth that has recovered from our present careless stewardship. In this scenario it will be as beautiful as it is now, even if we are still here. Even so, these Earthonouts would have been gone for so long that they would not be able to breath the earth's atmosphere, however pure. How easy it is to picture them walking about the Earth with bottles of their atmosphere.

It all makes me think of how unique this Earth is that we inhabit. It is even more worth experiencing than anything people are willing to risk their lives to see on Mars, the moon or under the ocean. I liken my friend going out and about with his O2 bottle to some spaceman or diver exploring a wonderful new world. This makes my friend a time traveller, an Earthonout from the future, who is exploring the earth thanks to his O2 bottles. To me he resembles the most adventurous diver or the bravest astronaut. Our world is so amazingly beautiful that even a couple of hours at a time under its sky with a breathing mask on is more wonderful than any of us ever appreciate.   IMG_3364 (96K)

The Poem

To cheer my friend up and help him reframe his situation I put these ideas in a poem. I have included it here for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.

To The Earthonaut

When we have strolled the darkest depths beneath the ancient waves
And learned from lunar views of earth we are its seeds and not its slaves
When Mars has been the briefest stop en route to other stars
When we have shone our tiny lights from interstellar jars
And made our mark upon the crust of planets now unknown
With courage launched our puny frame beyond our sweet safe home
To visit worlds and rest our eyes upon those other shores
To satisfy our need to venture out beyond these doors
Escaping natureís tiny space, that envelope of gas
What will they see, our childrenís eyes, when they have dared to pass
Defying evolutionís breath to carry lung and heart,
Encased in steel and glass to spend the centuries apart
To sleep in shelters filled with air recycled from our bones
So they can see another place so far from where weíve grown
To venture out to hear anew the far horizons song
The siren call that reaches out and teaches us to long
To carry with them bottled sky until they learn to breathe
The poison of another world as if it were their need
What if that human voyager adapts as people do
And then returns to see the Earth, descendants passing through
The dusty streets, the silent skies for aeons empty lain
Bereft of those that taste the wind, the scent of salt and rain
Will it be Eden they explore as they fall through the air
Once landed look with wonder on their motherís verdant hair
With breathing tubes that carry atoms from some distant sun
As they walk out upon this earth like cosmonauts undone
By all the beauty of this place that they have come to see
And by the life support they need to sit beneath a tree
Brave earthonaut you conquer time, you know what they will feel,
The atmosphere we carry to the moon and under keel.
So dear, my friend, my connoisseur, now life and all itís worth
Repays the courage that it takes to walk upon the earth

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