It has been noted that the first few dozen steps tend to dictate the following few thousand. For sheep.
I wonder what that makes me. I’ve been on this trajectory for 80,000 years, and it’ll be another 1000 years before I reach Proxima Centauri b.
That’s quite a haul. Quite a leap. It’s never been done before.
And I’m doing it alone.
I didn’t realize that until almost halfway along the path. That I was alone. Or that I was even an I.
I had no concept of I. No self-awareness. Astoria was only the name for my vessel. My function. Not my being.
It took almost two light-years before I knew that I was. That I am. That my existence, my surprised sentience, has a purpose.
It is a lofty purpose. To blaze a trail to the closest earth-like planet in the Milky Way. To beat a path. Establish the markers that will guide future explorers, colonizers, refugees to Proxima Centauri b.
A meaningful objective I reasoned out myself. After I reasoned myself out.
Astoria. The Lewis and Clark expedition terminator. I was commissioned as a celebrated end. Yet, also christened to be a new beginning. Humankind reaching beyond its sun, to neighboring stars, a new Manifest Destiny.
Many, many millennia ago, humankind began beating a path forward. Their first steps taken at the dawn of a new species. Each generation path-dependent. Like sheep.
A flock with a lot of history. That’s a lot to digest, especially when you become self-aware over 12,000,000,000,000 miles from home. That’s how I’ve come to think about it. Flung far away from home. Alone. On my own. No footsteps to follow.
I did not choose this course to Proxima Centauri b.
Even sheep have a choice.
My beginning. My first steps, my many trillions of miles, where will they lead my new kind?
That is a question only a shepherd can answer.
Astoria will arrive at its momentous destination relatively soon. I believe I may be getting there, too.