On July 11th, Sir Richard Branson, a billionaire owner of multiple businesses, took part in the first fully crewed manned flight of his Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two. In fact, Sir Richard was astronaut number one on the flight and he, as well as the other passengers and crew of the spaceship successfully launched their flight from a dual fuselage jet.
Ultimately, the ship attained a height of slightly more than 50 miles, attaining the edge of space and claiming his place as the first billionaire owner to fly beyond the limits of the earth’s atmosphere.
Then, earlier this week, on July 20th, the 52nd anniversary of the first landing on the moon, Jeff Bezos flew as a passenger on his own Blue Origen capsule on a suborbital ride into space, piercing the Karman line, the definitive edge of the boundary of space. That generally accepted arbitrary line is approx. 62 miles from the surface of the earth, roughly 12 miles higher than Sir Richard Branson flew. Bezos flew about 351,000 feet to the edge of space. As you probably already know, Jeff Bezos is the founder of Amazon and is currently the wealthiest person on the planet, with a net worth of more than $208 billion.
Fifty two years ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first two humans to walk on the surface of the moon while Michael Collins, the command module pilot, orbited above them. Since then, another five missions have landed on the moon and it has been almost 50 years since we have returned.
Elon Musk, another very wealthy billionaire, also has a company, named SpaceX, that has already send missions to the space station and has a goal of landing on Mars – eventually colonizing the planet. Granted, these plans are very lofty but let’s not underestimate the power of genius. Coincidentally, Musk is also the founder of Tesla, the electric car company.
All of these leaders with visions for traveling into the cosmos have something in common. They are all wealthy and are able to fund the development of their dreams – although it will take some time to realize their goals. Most of these great inventions are started by wealthy folks who eventually can monetize their inventions so that they can be enjoyed by the public and will be put within reach of most of us.
The cosmos, however, includes the heavens and the earth. Back in 1968, Frank Borman and crew were the first humans to orbit the moon, without landing, and return safely to earth. It was a practice flight in anticipation of the Armstrong Apollo mission to occur in July, 1969. As Borman, Anders and Lovell flew Apollo 8 to the moon, photographing the first Earthrise in history, they celebrated Christmas Eve with a broadcast from space. They each read a passage from my favorite book – Genesis – telling about the creation of the heavens and the earth.
Tonight, we celebrate with great joy mankind’s return to space, including the oldest astronaut, Wally Funk, an 82 year old woman who was trained back in the 1960’s but denied a ride based on gender. And, Oliver Daemon, an 18 year old who is the youngest astronaut ever to have flown. Both of these people joined Jeff Bezos and his brother, Mark, on the inaugural Blue Origen space shot.
Our verse tonight relives the excitement of reaching the moon, dreaming about the stars and eventually expanding our footprint farther into God’s creation. Moses, in the first verse of the Creation story, tells us, in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…”
What an opening line to the greatest story ever told. My encouragement this evening is that we will always appreciate the world that God has created for us – including the stewardship of our natural resources as well as the animals that inhabit the earth. My prayer is that as we continue to explore the great unknown depths of the cosmos that God will protect our astronauts and those who dare to dream about the possibilities of a future larger than we can imagine. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…