Praise him, sun and moon! Praise him, all you shining stars! (Psalms 148:3 WEB)
As a little child I often sat in the backyard and stared at the stars. One year my father provided a telescope so we could look closely at the constellations and the man in the moon. The immense magnitude of the stars stirred my soul. I was fascinated. I read science fiction novels and watched movies like “The Forbidden Planet.” These all served to increase my desire to know more about the heavens and what was out there.
Dad was famous in Atlanta because of man’s desire to know more about the stars. The Russians launched Sputnik to the amazement of the world. Dad carefully aligned his Ham Radio gear and captured the short signal as the satellite passed over Georgia. Because of his recording, a story and photo appeared in the Atlanta newspaper.
I was excited to watch Alan Shepherd, John Glenn and a long list of others blast off to circle the globe and explore the edges of space. It’s still exciting today! My fascination with these men, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) continued to grow.
I remember I stayed up late to watch the first men land on the moon and hear the memorable words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I wanted to be an astronaut and explore the galaxy. Unfortunately, I was soon too tall to fit within the confines of the earlier space capsules. But still my interest and study of space travel continued.
I collected pictures of astronauts, detailed drawings and specifications for the capsules and the future plans for the space program. I wrote to astronauts and collected signatures and personal information. One-day God provided me an opportunity to meet one of these men of space history.
I was working as an engineer in a little radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio. I worked the late shift since I was still in High School at the time. Due to the location of the station the doors were locked in the evening and visitors were carefully announced.
As I sat, drinking my cola, listening to the programs and making my log entries I was startled when the back door buzzed. I sauntered through the equipment room to the frosted door and noticed a medium height man outlined by the street lamp in the parking lot.
I stepped close to the door and questioned, “Who is it?”
“John Glenn,” he replied and waited.
I thought for a couple seconds, didn’t remember anything on my list of events for the evening and unceremoniously replied, “Yeah right!” I paused for dramatic effect then continued, “So, who are you really and what do you want?”
The man on the other side of the door cleared his throat and replied, “I am John Glenn here to record a political commercial.”
“Sorry, but I’m not buying this buddy,” I replied with a bit of sarcasm in my voice.
“Why don’t you call someone and find out?” replied the visitor from the outside of the door.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” I answered. I turned and walked back to my desk in the transmitter hall. I looked up the manager’s phone number. I dialed and waited for an answer.”
“Hello, this is Bob from the station. There’s some jerk outside claiming to be John Glenn. What do you want me to do? Call the police?”
“Oh, oh,” the station manager replied, “didn’t I leave you a note?”
“Note, what note?”
“John Glenn is coming to record political spots for his senatorial campaign. Record the spots and leave the recordings on my desk,” instructed the manager.
“OK,” I replied and hung up the phone.
Sheepishly I returned to the back door, ushered in Mr. Glenn and profusely apologized for treating him in such an impolite manner. We chatted about his work in the space program, a highlight for me, and I recorded his comments for political commercials. He went on to serve as Senator for Ohio several terms.
That was my first direct interaction with the space program. My collection of photos, signatures and special documents have long since disappeared but my interested continued even to the mission field.
On Guam NASA maintained a tracking station near the southern end of the island. One day I drove over, with some friends, for a short tour of the small facility.
One Thanksgiving we hosted a gentleman who worked with the shuttle program. Guam served as a backup landing site for the space shuttle in case there was an emergency. The shuttle didn’t divert to Guam but I learned a number of fascinating facts concerning their backup plans.
As thorough as backup plans might be they are never one hundred per cent. It was during our furlough from 1985 to 1986, while we were living in O’Fallon, Missouri I was once more reminded of the space program. We had just returned from a speaking trip to Kentucky where our speedometer cable broke.
I purchase the appropriate parts and spent the afternoon working under the car to install the new cable. This was necessary to make the cruise control would work. Cruise control is a vital necessity with the number of miles we travel during furlough.
Several hours later, two trips to the car part store and some choice words to the designer of the car I finally had a cable positioned for testing. I climbed into the car, started it up, cranked the air conditioning to frostbite and drove down the road. When I saw the speedometer begin to function I turned on the radio.
As I listened to some music my sing-along was interrupted by major news. The space shuttle Challenger had just exploded during takeoff. I couldn’t believe it! This had to be some sort of a joke. I remembered years before the news of the Apollo crew burned to death in the capsule. My heart went out to the families of the crew and all those involved in the details of the shuttle mission.
This was a national tragedy I never forgot. I drove home, turned on the television and watched the video of the event while listening to the ground crew try to assess the damage. None survived, it was a stark reality obvious in the film but denied in the heart.
As I worked to bring the heavenly news of the Gospel to the world I was reminded of man’s fragile, unexpected life. How many people, around the world, die unexpectedly without understanding the Gospel message and choosing to turn to God through Christ?
Another shuttle disaster occurred a few months before I wrote this. Again my heart went out to the crew, their families and all involved in the program. God gave us minds to overcome many of the limitations of our earthly life, including reaching out into space and to the moon.
Still, it’s here on the earth God chose to send his son to provide us a way of salvation. I want to seek God’s face in everything I do. Like many, I can find myself looking off to some unknown world diverting my vision from the one who saved my soul. I am excited as mankind grows, learns, discovers new things God created and reaches to the stars.
I pray I may be used of God to help others reach to the heavens through the savior on the Cross. We need a heavenly vision, with Christ as our focus, to reach the world with the good news of salvation.