…and back again! That was the challenge that President John Kennedy committed us to back in 1961. In the beginning of the space race with Russia, Kennedy issued an edict to deploy our resources to land men on the moon and return them to earth by the close of the decade – that is, the decade of the 1960’s. The country was on fire with a sense of national pride and even though Russia had launched Sputnik, which temporarily put them ahead of us in the conquest of space, we were not to be outdone.
Russia continued its lead by launching the first living creature into space, the first man, the first orbital flight and a host of other “firsts” that put us significantly behind the Soviets. While we were able to garner the support of Werner von Braun and hundreds, if not thousands, of top German engineers we were eventually able to narrow the gap and by the end of the decade, we were successful in fulfilling the challenge issued by the late President Kennedy.
All through the sixties, there was a sense of national unity, even realizing that we still had race issues, the war in Vietnam and many other problems in our society. Returning vets were struggling with re-entry into the social strata of the country and flower children were preaching peace, love and drugs to anybody who would listen. The Beatles were making their mark and rock and roll was experiencing a huge growth.
Through it all, the country experienced an unprecedented growth in the number of students who went on to get advanced degrees in the STEM disciplines – being defined as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. However, after the first lunar landing, public interest waned and today, the US is far down the list of countries who are leading the charge in the STEM areas. China and Singapore are currently setting the standards.
While that is a current issue to be considered, and solved, this week is about the 50th anniversary of the first manned flight to the moon. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins launched on July 16, 1969 and made it to the moon on July 20, 1969 – 50 years ago this Saturday – and spent just under a day on the lunar surface – deploying experiments, planting the American flag and collecting samples of moon rocks for studies back on earth. While Armstrong and Aldrin descended to the surface, Collins circled the moon waiting for their return to the command module.
There was great controversy at the time as to whether the US was claiming the moon as its own. The planting of the flag really seemed to set some people off and it was generally acknowledged that whoever controlled space would ultimately rule the earth as well. But the plaque that was unveiled on the lunar lander was quite specific – it told any future visitors to the moon that the Apollo astronauts came “in peace for all mankind…”
Most people don’t realize that this idea is biblical in origin. And that brings us to our verse for tonight. We are told by Moses, in Deuteronomy 4:19, “And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.” This verse reminds us that that we are not to worship the creation, but God, the Creator, and that the heavenly array was created for all the nations…
My encouragement tonight is that God would love it if the nations and peoples of the world could all get along. My prayer is that as we celebrate the first lunar landing and the first visit to another heavenly body, we will renew our interest in God’s creation and realize how fragile our own earth is. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…