Sister Gemma Simmonds CJ
On this day in 1986 the Soviet Union successfully launched the world's biggest space station, Mir. The launch came three weeks after the disaster in which the American space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing seven astronauts. The Russian word Mir means both peace and world. After a time in which the space race had mirrored tensions between East and West, the choice of name suggested a new attitude of cooperation and mutual support.
In the wake of the Challenger disaster President Ronald Reagan praised the courage of the astronauts who had reached out from earth to ‘touch the face of God’. Nowadays we’re reaching towards Mars and beyond. In 1961 Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first human to travel into space. Allegedly he said that he didn’t find God up there, though that comment was later denied.
In contrast astronaut Buzz Aldrin quoted Psalm 8: When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Space exploration probably does more than anything to give people a sense of proportion, of where human beings fit in the perspective of the whole universe and of eternity. We may not be able to touch the face of God, but we can reach for the stars. Eternal, mysterious God, we thank you for the wonder of all your great creation, and for giving us curious minds and hearts that reach out beyond our limits. Amen.