The space shuttle Discovery blasted off Tuesday in the first mission since the 2003 Colombia disaster. Yet less than two days after lift-off, NASA decided to ground the shuttle fleet due to debris filmed falling off Discovery during its ascent. Engineers are examining video footage of the launch to determine if Discovery, now orbiting the earth, is in any danger.

 

Space travel is a complex and dangerous business. In a recent issue of The New Atlantis, astronautical engineer Robert Zubrin provides a fascinating look into the worldview of NASA and the intricacies of sending people into space. Why is NASA failing? Is a mission to Mars even possible? Zubrin looks at what it will take: Getting Space Exploration Right.

 

Many question the wisdom of spending the incredible amount of money it takes to explore space. But the idea of exploring God’s created universe has significant theological implications that mankind cannot dismiss. WORLD magazine’s Gene Edward Veith tackled this question last year:

 

President Bush is calling for the nation to renew its exploration of outer space, to go to the moon to stay this time, and to send explorers off on the six-month voyage to Mars.

 

Is this wise? Can we afford it? Is it worthwhile to risk lives and treasure to go to those bleak and empty worlds? In the Mercury and Apollo days, space exploration was hardly controversial, garnering bipartisan support and overwhelming public favor. Today, the new space initiatives will spark angry debate.

 

But whether the new initiatives are feasible or imprudent, it is worth asking what space travel means. Is there a Christian perspective on the exploration of outer space? What about the questions that drive our imaginations—the possibility of life on other planets—even to consider going there? What about other questions involving our comprehension of the immensity of the universe and humanity's tiny place in it? Will the scientific knowledge gained by space exploration undermine the Christian faith? Or might we instead by considering the heavens bring glory to God?

 

Veith interviews astronaut Col. Jeffery Williams, a Christian who spoke about what his space exploration experience meant to his faith. According to Williams:

 

"In orbit you view Earth and the vastness of space," said Col. Williams, and see that "we are an infinitesimal speck in light of the Creator Himself." This is profoundly humbling, but the vastness of the creation is a testimony to the infinite power and majesty of the One who called it into being. This sense of our smallness and God's unlimited glory is important for self-centered, self-absorbed human beings to realize. "One of the problems inside the church," said Col. Williams, "is that we forget this."

 

Read the complete article at worldmag.com: Considering the Heavens