While it’s true that I have many questions about many things, tonight’s post isn’t about that kind of curiosity. Rather, it is about the Mars rover that is currently safely on the surface of the Red Planet – appropriately named “Curiosity.”
For many years, scientists have been asking questions about the nature of the martian surface and the rover, many years in the planning and more than a year in transit, has several objectives for its assignment on the surface of the planet. First of all, the investigation of the climate and geology of the planet, the role of water and finally, whether the planet could have supported life. Unlike other probes that have been sent in the past, Curiosity was actually activated above the surface of the planet as it was being lowered by cables from a descent stage contraption. When the rover sensed it was on the surface of the planet, it fired several small explosive packages that severed the cables to the craft above it. Once free, the descent stage continued on to a pre-determined crash site where it will not hamper the mission of Curiosity. Even this part of the mission is unbelievable to me.
It landed near Gale crater and the craft is outfitted with multiple cameras and scientific devices – the most advanced on any probe sent to Mars. The rover weighs about 1980 pounds and is powered by a nuclear energy source.
When it encounters a rock or soil sample that the scientists think may be of interest, Curiosity can take images, and then fire a laser to vaporize a portion of the sample. The resulting vapor can then be analyzed by computers on board the rover. If further information is desired, it can actually bore a hole and transport the resulting dust into a sample cup to be processed by onboard equipment. Of course, the results can then be sent back to earth.
Even then, there are several ways for the data to get back to us. It can be sent directly, but at a relatively slow speed, or can be transmitted to orbiters circling Mars, that have much larger antennas, and then sent back to earth by them. Transmission speeds are much faster and even then, it takes about 14 minutes for a signal to return here from the red planet.
Suffice it to say that Curiosity is an incredible engineering marvel. Scientists, and the rest of the earth, are already jazzed by the quality and volume of data being received on earth. In fact, one of the system engineers has become an overnight internet celebrity for his mohawk style haircut with yellow stars on the side of his head. He now has more than 20,000 followers on Twitter, up from only 400 several days ago. And what’s more, more than 1.2 million people signed up to have their names carried on the rover to Mars. Apparently, there is a microchip on board that has every name etched into it.
Now we are all familiar with the beginning of Genesis when we are told that God created the heavens and the earth, but there are other places in the Scripture that make deeper references to what we think of as the heavens. For example, we are told that God created the greater light and the lesser light – we think of them as the sun and the moon. But they were not named in the Bible – presumably because the Egyptians worshipped more than 3000 gods and their sun and moon gods were two of their “most powerful” gods. But our God is so great that the sun and the moon, by comparison, don’t even rate being named in the same sentence as any reference to the magnitude of God.
Buy my favorite verses that actually mention several other places can be found in Job. In case you are not familiar with this book, Job is the story of a man who God allows Satan to torment. After losing his wealth, animals, family and everything dear to him, the middle chapters of the book recount three rounds of conversations between Job and several of his friends. They try to convince Job that he must have sinned and in the last chapters of the book, Job cries out to God, virtually demanding answers. God, in one of the most famous sections of the Bible, responds to Job, but not in the way you would think. God really lashes into Job and goes on to question him. Believe me, when you read it, you wouldn’t want to be in Job’s shoes.
Although Job is finally restored to a position of wealth and strength that transcends his earlier success and position, it is not without God’s command for Job to listen… Tonight’s verse comes from God’s speech to Job. In Job 38:31-33, God says to Job, “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up [God’s] dominion over the earth?”
This, at least to me, is a magnificent piece of Scripture that affirms that God made the heavens and all that is in them. The Pleiades are a cluster of stars still visible in our night sky. And we all have seen Orion, the hunter – or at least, the three stars of his belt. And the Bear and her Cubs? Of course, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, better known as the Big Dipper and Little Dipper. And I can’t begin to think that I could even guess as to the laws of the heavens. Finally, I don’t even have dominion over anything on the earth, let alone dominion over all the earth. That’s just too big for me even to contemplate.
My encouragement tonight is to let you know that you serve a HUGE God. One who has created it all – heavens, earth, constellations, stars and yes, even Mars. My prayer is that you will take a moment to dwell on the expanse of creation and all that has been created by God. And if you have never read about the breadth of God’s creation, you may just want to sit down with a Bible and read Job 38-42. They are awesome chapters and mention things that I bet you have never even considered about God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…