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The Starliner!

Earlier this week, we witnessed the first manned liftoff of Boeing’s new Starliner spacecraft, destined to transport two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for about ten days before they are scheduled to return to earth. This launch was delayed a number of times, the last postponement a result of determining that more than a mile of wire insulation wrapping was a fire hazard. Of course, it had to be replaced. The launch went off without a hitch and that means that SpaceX, Blue Origin and Boeing all have manned spacecraft that can take humans to outer space.

The exploration of space has been a remarkable undertaking. I was a young boy when the Mercury astronauts were chosen in the late 1950’s and then Alan Shepherd made the first US manned flight in May, 1961. Gus Grissom, John Glenn and others followed. That is, with the exception of Deke Slayton, who was grounded after a heart anomaly was detected. That was in 1962 and, fortunately, he was allowed to finally fly in 1975. How appropriate that he was the docking pilot for the first meeting in space between American astronauts and the Soviet Cosmonauts.

The Gemini, Apollo and many other programs followed the early days of space exploration in the Mercury program. And now, Elon Musk and others have their eyes set on the conquest of Mars after teams re-visit landing on the moon in the near future. That will be the first time in more than 50 years that mankind will set foot on our moon! This, after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, with Mike Collins as the command module pilot circling above them, first set foot on another heavenly body in 1969. How exciting! In an unfortunate twist of fate, William Anders, the astronaut who took the most famous picture ever, Earthrise, was tragically killed two days ago when his plane crashed. He was 90 years old and was on the crew of Apollo 8 – the mission that circled the moon during Christmas Eve 1968. He will be sadly missed.

Unfortunately, space exploration became almost commonplace and it wasn’t long before most Americans, and others around the world, lost interest in the conquest of space. That was until Apollo 13, the moonshot that suffered the explosion of an oxygen tank en route to the moon. James Lovell and his crew eventually made it home, without landing on the moon, and NASA considered this flight a “successful failure.” Luckily, through the work of a number of people and vendors, our astronauts safely returned to the earth.

Now, half a century later, we are ready to once again tackle the challenges of space travel. The Boeing Starliner and other noteworthy spacecraft are on the brink of exciting new discoveries. We are fortunate to be alive during this time in history.

Our verse for tonight is one that isn’t usually used when speaking of the cosmos – that is, the universe and all that is in it. Usually, I go to Genesis 1:1 – you know, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” But tonight, I thought we should travel to another book, Paul’s Acts of the Apostles. In this book, where we find the documentation of the new church during the time of Pentecost, we also see Paul remind us about God’s domain and His habitat. The apostle to the Gentiles tells us, in Acts 17:24, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.”

This verse affirms that God created the world (cosmos) and everything in it. My encouragement this evening is that taking care of God’s creation and exploring what God has provided for us is important work. My prayer is that as we continue our exploration of the cosmos, we will have an even greater respect for the Lord of the Universe and the vastness of His creation – because it extends without end! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…

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