I wrote this last week after spending the day at NASA.
If you’ve never stood beneath the Saturn V rocket at NASA, you won’t be able to understand the overwhelming experience that it is. 363 feet long and 33 feet in diameter (that’s more than 100 feet in circumference, kids), this thing is unbelievable. What’s really amazing is to realize that this exists as a product of human ingenuity. What amazing things man can do!
I got to visit NASA and see up close what our space program has been, what it is, and where it’s headed. I was moved to tears sometimes at the courage, determination, and willingness to sacrifice these men and women displayed. I don’t know what motivated all of them, but I think there is a general spirit that united all of them. It is the spirit of progress – but not progressivism – that sees the future coming, and knows that for the sake of those that are yet to come, advancements need to be made by those that are here now, building on those made by those who have come before.
I was especially moved by the stories of those whose lives were lost when things didn’t go right, and the fact that it wasn’t a question of whether or not they should continue, but rather a question of how they could get it right in the future. They didn’t honor the memories of their fallen comrades by backing down, but by finishing what had been started.
I’ll admit, the Sci-Fi geek in me was raging something fierce at all that I saw. Everywhere I turned I saw sparks that may turn into stories – or pieces of stories, at least – some day in the future. But it wasn’t so much the stuff, the technology that captivated me. It was the spirit that gave birth to it.
I felt proud again to be an American.
I was also proud, and humbled, to hear these men and women speak about their thoughts and feelings as they worked toward these lofty goals. Once, many thousands of years ago, mankind tried to reach the heavens. They thought they would make a name for themselves doing so, and with no thought for their creator or his will they set about trying to make it happen. They failed, because their creator put a stop to their nonsense. But the men and women of NASA consistently spoke of their awe at the power of their creator.
I don’t want to be so foolish as to say I know why God let us get into space when he thwarted our ancestors who tried to touch the heavens. Could the difference be the spirit in which it was done? I don’t know. I can come up with all kinds of objections to that notion, but it’s something to think about.
What I do know is that God has allowed us a vision of our world, our cosmos, and who we are, that we never had before, and all in the last one hundred years.
I was discussing once with some friends why it is that no matter how far we cast our eyes, there’s always more to be found (we still don’t really know how big the universe is), and no matter how closely we examine something, it seems there’s always a deeper level. It occurred to me then that I think God wants us to see that he’s always bigger than we thought he was. Every time we see that that things are bigger than we thought they were, and we remember that God made it all, we see how much bigger he must be.
And he cares for us?
Another humbling part of my time at NASA – the willingness to sacrifice for the greater good. Not the ridiculous notion of sacrifice I keep hearing in the press conferences these days; those are all about how we have to accept someone taking more and more from us against our will. I mean the willingness that these men and women had to put their lives on the line, knowing that a single oversight, mistake could be the end for them, all because they knew someone had to do it. Time and again it was pointed out that every astronaut knows that when they launch, something could go wrong and they could die. Yet, with smiles and thumbs up for the cameras, they strap in and head off to the heavens.
When Apollo 1 failed, there were naysayers who said it wasn’t worth the risk. But those working at NASA in those days said that the best way to honor the memory of their fallen comrades (maybe that’s a poor word, considering that era…) was to press onward, reach for the same goal, not to back down. And there were astronauts ready to step into that dangerous position to do just that.
What courage and determination.
Before I spend too much more time praising the indomitable spirit of mankind, though…
Where does that come from? From where does this courage and determination, this willingness to sacrifice, this honor and concern for setting the stage for future generations emanate? Why are we like this?
I know. We were created very special. We were made completely different from every other living being on this planet. We were made for one primary purpose – to give glory to God. To that end, he has endowed us with characteristics that reflect his own glory. Marred by sin though these characteristics may be, yet they retain some glimmer of what they were meant to be. In those who are regenerated by connection with Christ – and many who have worked in our space program are – these traits are brought out to shine even brighter.
Here’s the point: We only have these traits because he gave them in the first place. We only use them because he allows it. Those who are filled with them only are because God has made them to be so filled.
So as much as I can praise the spirit of these men and women, I do so only as a step to praising the one who is the source of all of this.
NASA. Pretty amazing place. Our universe is a pretty amazing place. I’m thankful for our space program, and I’m thankful I got to experience it, at least just a little.