I recently read about Mars One, an organization that has the lofty goal of creating a permanent human settlement on Mars by 2023. They are seeking applicants for this journey who will become part of a reality television show that will fund the project. The kicker is that the journey is one-way. The astronauts would not return to earth, but become “Martians.”
I was immediately intrigued because as a child I followed the earliest astronauts with a passion. Pictures of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spaceships covered my room. In third grade as we watched one of the first Americans in space, I told my teacher that my life goal was to be one of first men on Mars.
My dreams of being an astronaut died the day I got glasses. I knew that my vision would not allow me to be a military pilot, let alone an astronaut. Still I love the idea of space travel, moving beyond earth orbit and reaching for the moon, the planets and eventually the stars. I realize that I will never leave the gravitational pull of earth yet my imagination can still soar to distant galaxies.
My Christian faith did not directly curb or inspire my passion for space travel. I don’t imagine Jesus becoming an astronaut; neither do I see him condemning such endeavors. The human thirst for knowledge and exploration seems to be created within us. The medieval church became the birth place of modern science with its emphasis on the rationality of God’s creation, while at the same time the church rebuked scientists like Galileo. Today a key question is whether spending money, time and energy on space flight is good stewardship of our limited resources. However the same questions can be raised about spending the same resources on the military and/or entertainment.
Modern writers have used space as a place to explore Christian faith and alien cultures. C. S. Lewis’s first science fiction novel, Out of the Silent Planet, is based on travel to Mars. Mary Doria Russell’s novel, The Sparrow, explores how the Catholic Church might respond to the discovery of an alien culture near Alpha Centauri. Such reflections are often an attempt to understand our own history and place in the universe.
One of my favorite scriptures reflects upon the nature of the night sky,
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than angels and crowned them with glory and honor (Psalm 8:3-5).
Part of our glory and honor is our human curiosity for new knowledge and understanding. I know that I will not be applying for a spot on Mars One. But if it does move forward, I will be one who watches with fascination.
Have you ever dreamed of space flight? Or some other great adventure?
Lord Jesus, thank you for our mental curiosity.