04 October 2007

The Legacy of Sputnik

Fifty years after a beach-ball sized hunk of metal 'beep-beep'ed its way around the globe, instilling fear and terror in some, and wondrous hope in others, what is the legacy of Earth's first artificial satellite, Sputnik?

As a man of faith, I have often been asked what God thinks of spaceflight, and it is my belief that God has given us a magnificent sense of wonder and inquisitiveness. We must use it to the fullest advantage that we can, and that extends to exploring space.

Spaceflight today is entering its painful adolescent state. Still in some ways childish (spy satellites, anti-satellite weapons, etc...), while at the same time trying to be mature (observation telescopes, geological study satellites, missions to the planets and beyond). We are still growing into our identy as a spacefaring people.

People of faith must be involved in this great endeavor, however. To go to the stars without acknowledging God's creative hand and his awesome granduer in the fabric of space does only a disservice to people of faith who might seek to foreswear spaceflight as some evil, demonic attempt to build a modern Tower of Babel.

Space is the future of humanity (at least until the Lord returns), and we need to -as people of faith- be ready to move into the future with the rest of our species.

At the same time, the deep call of both God and space should renew our goals to set aside our petty, pathetic differences here on earth. The killing needs to stop, borders need to be torn down, warfare needs to cease, and the poor, orphaned, downtrodden of our civilization need -desperately!- to be cared for. Some say that the money for space should be spent on the poor. I agree, to an extent... but I'd prefer to see the money we use to build guns and bombs to kill (largely) the poor turned to helping them stand and exist in a modern world where everyone has an acceptable standard of living.

In a way, I think Saint Francis would be proud to share his feast day on the western calendar with the launch of Sputnik... for as Sputnik causes us to think of that newly-expanding frontier of Space, a part of the creation that Francis loved so much, so it forces us to think about the rest of his message - one where we live in harmony with nature and with our fellows.

Just some thoughts on this day, October 4th... the fiftieth anniversary of the 'beep' that changed the world.


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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