Forty years ago today. Forty years ago today the culmination of humanity’s first venture to explore the universe beyond our planet earth was realized by the astronauts that landed on the lunar surface. Forty years ago today, that one small step ushered in a new era in humanity’s mission to explore the vast and beautiful creation of an amazing God. But was that giant leap worth it? Billions of dollars, millions of man-hours, and even the cost of men’s lives were the price we paid for that endeavor. What makes space exploration worthwhile when we have so many problems here on earth with real people involved? Doesn’t God’s dominion mandate specifically say “fill the earth and subdue it?”
I have to admit right up front that I have always had a soft spot for space travel. Space is the final frontier and it never ceases to fill me with awe and wonder. Ever since I can remember I’ve been a self-proclaimed “Trekkie” and had a deep interest in space exploration. One of my biggest regrets and one that my goal is to rectify someday soon is that I never really studied the history of space travel as much as I wish I would have. I never studied star constellations as much as I now looking back would have liked. (There is still time for me :-) I have this all on my to-do list.) So understand that when I say this there may be a hint of boyish idealism - space travel has never failed to spark my imagination.
I believe that space exploration has brought about some of our nation’s proudest moments and should be a national priority. Politicians don’t talk about space exploration much (and my libertarian friends may not talk to me soon after this post :-P) – it really is not a national issue, the people don’t care, the politicians don’t care, NASA has been relegated to just another one of those everlasting government agencies (Reagan: The closest thing to eternal life on earth is a government agency) with no real mission other than to simply exist. Some people see this as a reason to get rid of NASA and the American space program; to discard it as the government waste spending they see it as. I agree that there is a problem with the American space program, but to me, the solution is not to quietly shut it down, but to open the gates, sound the trumpets and set out on a grand new adventure to the stars.
I first started writing this post about two weeks ago. The month had just turned and I was watching Apollo 13 when I realized, “Hey this is July, and it is exactly 40 years since 1969. I am going to be in Costa Rica for the anniversary of the moon landing!” To be completely up front, I usually don’t remember to mark the moon landing every July. While I love the history of space travel, I have to admit it usually isn’t on my radar. This year, I started thinking about it ahead of time by happenstance. As I was planning this blog post during these last two weeks, I suddenly started seeing a swarm of articles on the US space program about a week ago leading up to today. As I started reading the various articles, it was for me it was an affirmation. I have not done a tremendous amount of research so I am not in a place to comment on particular policy proposals, but the articles (both those I agreed with and those I disagreed with) strengthed this belief that I view as fundamentally true:
“And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” God created a universe worth exploring. He gave mankind a sense of wonder over His creation. Exploration is not always profitable for bottom lines, but it is profitable for inspiring minds. Inspiring minds with the awesomeness of God’s creation and the incredible universe He has given us. Should we go to Mars? Return to the Moon? What should be the government’s role and how much should we leave to the private sector? These questions are for another day, and frankly I have not done enough research to give an answer I could confidently stand on. What I do believe though, is that space exploration is important. We have problems on earth. We have issues to confront. But we also have a universe outside. A universe that is unfathomably huge and yet still less than a grain of sand in the hands of our Creator. If we fail to explore it – if we ignore it – all I can say is, (to slightly alter a phrase) it seems we are wasting an awfully big space.