Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
July 8, 2011
The Space Shuttle and your soul
When the Space Shuttle program ends with Atlantis’ return, will the 30-year initiative have been worthwhile? It costs $450 million to launch an orbiter; total cost per mission is $1.5 billion. Total cost for the program is estimated at $196 billion, which seems astronomical until you learn that the federal government spends that much in three weeks.
However, the Hubble Telescope and International Space Station (ISS) would have been impossible without the shuttle program. The ISS is a permanent laboratory where medical research is currently being conducted, as well as technology development for industrial materials and communications. Treatments for prostate cancer and muscular dystrophy were first tested on there.
Other benefits: We have better topographical maps of our planet because of the Shuttle; the NASA/DeBakey heart pump was built using technology from shuttle fuel pumps; new 3-D technology is based on NASA telerobotics software; and aircraft such as the Boeing 777 uses NASA innovations.
Do these benefits outweigh the costs? You’ll have to judge for yourself. I’m interested in a second question: Why do we fly, despite the risks and costs? To get to our destination faster, obviously. But I think there’s more to the story. One of my earliest memories is of lying on the lawn of our Houston home, staring at the clouds and wishing I could fly up there. Superman was my favorite cartoon hero, not because of his affinity for Lois Lane or X-Ray vision, but because he could fly.
Doesn’t something in your soul prod you to believe that you were made for more than this? That you were created to rise above the mundane borders of your temporal existence? John Gillespie Magee, Jr., a young pilot who was killed in action during World War II, expressed my soul well. In words read by President Reagan after the Challenger disaster, he said, “up, up the long delirious, burning blue, I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace, where never lark or even eagle flew. And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
I can’t touch his face this morning, but the good news is that he can touch mine. And one day “the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). What a flight that will be.
In the meantime, consider these lyrics from my favorite Mercy Me song: Before you ever took a breath / Long before the world began / Of all the wonders He possessed / There was one more precious / Of all the earth and skies above / You’re the one He madly loves / Enough to die.
This is the promise of God.