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Telling the Truth at the speed of life.    (January 18, 2003)

Space Shuttle Columbia: Descent Into Eternity

The irony seems almost bitter: on what has become a routine mission - routine at least to outside observers - the space shuttle Columbia circled the earth over six million miles of space performing experiments and other tasks, began its descent into the third and final layer of the atmosphere and was almost home free, only to break apart at re-entry. Texans and Lousianians were particularly touched by the horror as they viewed the too-wide contrail against a cloudless sky and, in some cases, marked debris and remains that fell near them. People everywhere pondered the greatest of the losses: seven highly qualified and intensely trained astronauts at the zenith of their elite careers.

In the long tradition of the Modern quest for answers to everything, assurances that we will find the cause immediately rang out. This is sacrosanct among the scientific community and seems the right thing to do in civilized nations. However, when it comes to the nagging questions of the heart, neither NASA nor any other agency of man can begin to offer answers or hope. That's why the lives of several of the crew shone so brightly, particularly the life of mission commander Colonel Rick Husband. Eulogized admiringly for his ability to mold a diverse team into a cohesive family of professionals, his faith and family commitments stood out even more in a series of news reports and pre-launch interviews.

Have you noticed the displays of rock-solid faith and other-worldly peace during national tragedies in the past few years? The courageous faith of Cassie Bernal and others amid murderous shootings at Columbine High School, the calmly assured victims of a church shooting in Forth Worth, the brave faith of both Todd Beamer and his widow Lisa uncovered in the wake of 911, now this. It would seem that divinely monitored events of great gravity are being thrust onto the front pages at regular intervals. Many Christians state a belief that God gains glory in such circumstances, despite (and in contrast to) the destruction caused by morally free humans and a fallen world where tragedy is left largely unchecked. 

A somber memorial service four days after the loss of Columbia paid apt tribute to the brave men and women of STS-107. Jewish and Christian military chaplains offered openly biblical readings and remarks and President Bush continued his appeal to the Almighty. It's at times like this that America's tolerance of civic religion is highest. Again, the lives of committed Christian crew members spoke plainly of something more than a perfunctory "nod to God." They lived a faith that transcended the pull to idolize their privileged positions and lose perspective. They also possessed a supernatural assurance of their eternal destiny. Investigate a bit about these heroes and the faith that transcended both their superstar status and their personal demise. And think about the big questions of life and death with us.

Featured Articles and Essays

Astronauts: Eternity and the Elite
Dr. Phil Bishop
Professor Bishop has worked intimately with astronauts as a physiologist. His characterizations of astronauts and their personalities provides a glimpse into their world. With appropriate gravity, Bishop drills to the core issue: even among the world's elite, no man or woman is exempt from death. What then?

Glimpse of a Godly Astronaut
Byron Barlowe, Editor
A poignant moment shared by several eyewitnesses captured a small portrait of the man who led the doomed mission of the 113th space shuttle mission. Singer Steve Green's February 1 concert became a same-day impromptu memorial for close friend and mission commander Rick Husband. Get an inside view of a remarkable man whose faith in Christ shone "like a light on a hill."

Man Knows Not His Time
Dr. Dewey Hodges
Award-winning aerospace engineer professor Dewey Hodges' same-day reflections of the tragic loss of the Columbia space shuttle. He offers a brief biblical perspective of the paradoxical views that, although the Creator placed a desire to explore and investigate in man, His ways are ultimately beyond our grasp.

Shuttle Columbia Memorial (Flash! presentation)
Scott Kinney
A moving visual tribute to the seven lost astronauts of the space shuttle Columbia, featuring the words of President George Bush. See the links to other resources at the end of the movie, including the link labeled Good News. (Note: the visual images begin changing only after several seconds of audio.)

Related Articles

Why Would a Loving God Allow Pain and Suffering?
Jay Lynch, M.D.
Pain and suffering are not abstract concepts to a cancer doctor who has seen them up close day-to-day. Professor of Oncology Jay Lynch, M.D. deals fully with the problem, its definition, various solutions to the problem, a biblical view of Job's sufferings and even the purpose of pain and suffering. He tells of new residents, dreading the treatment of depressed patients, coming away in awe of their strength and focus. Concludes Dr. Lynch, "There is a perfecting and purifying effect in our suffering...."

Failure to Render Aid
Professor Mitch Land
No one knows the pain like those who have lost a loved one. Professor Mitch Land experienced acute agony when he lost his son. "Why don't you come here and do something about all this suffering?" Mitch cried out to God. And God had an answer for him.

Evidence of God in Human Physiology: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Dr. Phil Bishop
Dr. Phil Bishop has worked closely with astronauts themselves in his studies of the human body and its performance. He draws on his Scriptural knowledge and faith to help interpret the science that he knows so well. A cursory examination of human physiology reveals: 1) the complexity of man and what it suggests about man's origins, 2) the efficient and versatile operation of man compared with machine, and 3) the depth of our ignorance about how man's physiological systems operate.

Message from Professor Robert Jastrow, Board of Directors, Truth Journal
Dr. Robert Jastrow
Jastrow, described then by Paddy Chayevsky as "the greatest writer on science alive today," contemplates the beginning of the universe that we explore. Although an agnostic, he could not escape the thorny question of ultimate beginnings.

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Updated: 15 January 2003