I very much hope I'm wrong, but it's not looking good for Steve Fossett, the "millionaire adventurer" (as the news stories always put it) who has been missing in the Nevada back country since Monday. And even though friends and relatives are staying optimistic, news stories are starting to talk about the treacherous and sudden winds that can spring up in the mountainous areas where Fossett was flying. I have friends who live nearby and have been through the area a number of times. It is rugged country.
Steve Fossett is most famous for finally making it around the world in a hot-air balloon and for going around the world non-stop in an experimental astoundingly light and ingenious airplane, but he was also an avid auto racer and sailor. At one time I thought of his quests as a rich man's stunts, but I changed my attitude some time ago (and not just because he grew up in Garden Grove, which is in the Register's circulation area).
I think a world with people in it who are constantly looking for new challenges, new paths to take and records to break is a lot healthier than one without such people in it. It's certainly healthier to seek to prove oneself to oneself by setting a world record, even a somewhat artificial one, than by going to war to prove you are brave and resolute. And if some of humankind's vicarious enjoyment of those who seek out and conquer challenges can be sated by feats like those Steve Fossett undertook, that's downright healthy for society. He's more of a hero than any warrior.
I sure hope he's alive.