When the Space Age started with all of its initial successes, the sky was the limit. Would we not simply hop from the lunar landscape to Mars and on beyond?
Yet oddly enough, following the challenges of the famous Apollo program, the U.S. government began to curtail NASA's funding sharply, jobs in the space industry disappeared, planned programs declined and the urge to explore outer space somehow seemed to retreat to the back burner.
Subsequently, several unmanned flights, including the spectacular triumphs of Hubble, were very successful. But the poignant tragedies of manned excursions caused many Americans to wonder whether or not it was worth the price in precious human lives.
It is now just over a year since the Columbia shuttle broke into pieces over Texas with the loss of seven crew members. Most left courageous families who mourn them still. Yet despite these tragic losses, the space program continues.
Then Spirit and Opportunity recently transmitted the clearest, most-well-defined space shots of Mars' surface ever seen by the human eye—with the almost sure promise of much more to come.
Will man reach Mars?
Clearly the risks remain enormous, the costs astronomical and the required technology not quite yet fully existent. The space journey one-way would take at least six months. Just the same, it would be foolhardy to say human beings simply cannot travel to Mars.
The Bible tells us that men and women were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Though formed from the dust of the earth, man potentially would possess incredible intellectual powers of imagination about and understanding of the very nature of the universe, along with the capacity to harness and implement those powers.
Viewing the building of the Tower of Babel, God (Elohim) had said: "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan [imagine, KJV] to do will be impossible for them" (Genesis 11:6, New International Version throughout). God understands and appreciates mankind's amazing technological potential far better than we do. He created human beings.
Author Alister McGrath declared: "The fact that so much of the deep structure of the universe can be represented mathematically points to something remarkable about both the universe itself and to the ability of the human mind to understand it. It is almost as if the human mind had been designed to grasp the patterns and structures of the cosmos" (Glimpsing the Face of God, 2002, p. 19).
King Solomon once assessed man's natural intellectual proclivities. "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. As the heavens are high and the earth is deep, so the hearts of kings are unsearchable" (Proverbs 25:2-3).
Historically, when God sees man threatening His own purposes, He has intervened (massively on one or two occasions) to restrain man from speeding to the brink of self-destruction well in advance of the divine timetable.
First, because of their sin against God, Adam and Eve were exiled from the user-friendly, conducive-to-life environment of the Garden of Eden. I envision it with lots of leisure as well as stimulating, pleasurable work time. They were suddenly plunged into an ecology that sternly demanded hard labor to survive and to earn their living from a stubborn Mideastern soil.
Then after Noah's Flood, God radically shortened man's lifespan to 70 or 80 years—roughly a mere tenth of what it had been. Add to these obviously restraining effects the severely limiting factor brought on by the sudden manifestation of so many languages at Babel.
But in due time, according to His divine plan, purpose and timeline, God would allow these conditions of restraint to be overcome.
Overcoming the restraints on man
The book of Daniel reveals several important keys to understanding world conditions during the end time. One is found in Daniel 12:4. "But you Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge" (emphasis added throughout article).
The NIV translation of this ancient biblical passage proves an intriguing commentary on today's pronouncements about space travel. According to a feature article in The Sunday Times (London), "NASA insists that whatever the outcome of [President] Bush's announcements this week, a manned mission is inevitable because of man's insatiable desire for new knowledge and to answer the questions about the universe and the origins of mankind" (Jan. 11, 2004).
Frederick Gregory, deputy administrator of NASA, said: "We will go anywhere we can in the solar system to get these questions answered."
But in yet another sense certain relevant questions remain: Will we find the answers we seek by means of traveling to planets like Mars? Or are we looking in the wrong place? Are the answers already here on earth—buried to most in an ancient book whose contents many now reject as myth in this increasingly secular age of man?
We wonder if anything is out there. We muse about the possibility of intelligent life in the cosmos. Back in 1950 a group of eminent nuclear scientists, including Edward Teller, had a lunch meeting in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The discussion soon turned to the possibility of extraterrestrial life in the universe. This august gathering agreed that the cosmos was so ancient, with so many stars, that life must exist somewhere out there.
"Where is everybody?"
But then one of their number, physicist Enrico Fermi, asked: "Where is everybody?"
As a Times (London) column observed: "[This] question cuts to the heart of humanity's place in the universe. At stake is an understanding of where life on earth came from, whether it is unique, and how it might ultimately be explained—matters that trouble theologians as greatly as scientists" (Jan. 3, 2004).
Some have even been propelled into a speculative frenzy. For instance, one feature article asked: "Did life, as many now think, first come to Earth from Mars?" (Sunday Times Magazine, Dec. 14, 2003). Do many really think this? Unbelievable! It's an absurd proposition when we really grasp the truth.
In fact the questions posed in that Times column are already answered in God's Word to man—the Bible.
Gaining true meaning from the creation itself
The apostle Paul revealed the significance of the creation in a long epistle to the Roman Christians. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature [Godhead, KJV]—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).
King David of Israel, who said, "The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue" (2 Samuel 23:2), enlarges on Paul's insightful proclamation. David said, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?" (Psalm 8:3-4).
This ancient Hebrew king had a regular habit of asking the right questions. He well understood that God is the Creator of all that we can see and know—and that the whole creation is alive with purpose for men and women if they could but grasp it.
In another psalm he exclaimed: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard" (Psalm 19:1-3). The message of God is ultimately intended for all men and women regardless of language, ethnic group, color, gender or nationality. But for the present, only a small number, the biblical firstfruits, truly comprehend the real purpose of human life during this age of man—and the magnificent glories to follow on beyond.
After commenting on the one star in the solar system, our sun (verses 5-6), David suddenly switches the subject from the divinely-ordained movements that govern the stars, earth and suns to God's great spiritual law. "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving [converting, KJV] the soul" (verse 7). Yet the connection between the two topics is obvious. The stars and planets obey divinely given laws (like gravity) in interacting with one another, and human beings have to learn to conform to God's created patterns.
Truly, the star-studded heavens should give us an understanding of our God—urging us to get in harmony with His plan and purpose.
When a man from space visited earth
We need not look for life on other planets, simply because the cosmos already teems with supra-intelligent beings invisible to the human eye—not composed of physical matter, but made of spirit. The Bible calls them angels.
But God is the most intelligent Being in the whole universe. He has the answers to all of our human problems and He has revealed Himself to men and women in the Bible. He sent His Son to earth as a first step in dealing with our difficulties.
Truly, earth has already been visited from space. Nearly 2,000 years ago this Being was sent by the Father to die for our transgressions of God's law (Galatians 4:4), and to proclaim the good news of the coming Kingdom of God (Mark 1:1, 14). During His ministry, Jesus Christ spoke often of this Kingdom and the required conduct for fail-safe entry.
He also described what it would be like for transformed human beings to occupy a privileged place in that Kingdom as the children of God. They would be like the angels in heaven in the sense that they could not die anymore (Luke 20:36). Their faces would shine like the stars. "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:43).
The human body is not now naturally or biologically equipped for space travel. But we will be when we enter the glorious Kingdom of God. True Christians will rise in the air to meet the returning Jesus Christ when He visits this earth a second time. Our intrinsic composition will then be transformed from these vulnerable fleshly bodies into impervious spiritual bodies like Christ's glorious body (Philippians 3:21)—bodies capable of infinite travels throughout space.
American astronaut Wally Schirra gave us a stirring insight into what occupying space feels like to a human being. "Feeling weightless... it's so many things together. A feeling of pride, of healthy solitude, of dignified freedom from everything that's dirty, sticky. You feel exquisitely comfortable... and you feel you have so much energy, such an urge to do things. And you work well, yes, you think well, without sweat, without difficulty as if the biblical curse in the sweat of thy face and sorrow no longer exists. As if you've been born again" (Maria Benjamin, Rocket Dreams, 2003, p. 22, emphasis author's).
Although far from a perfect description of being in the Kingdom of God, the account nonetheless excites our human imaginations.
The next frontier
Is Mars the next frontier? Maybe yes, in a very restricted, limited sense in this present age of man. But our entry into the Kingdom of God pales it into insignificance. Only then will the family of God liberate mankind from its megaproblems and megasufferings.
The apostle Paul aptly described this future liberation. "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons [and daughters, 2 Corinthians 6:18] of God to be revealed... The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit [true Christians], groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:19, 21-23).
In the long run, the Kingdom of God is the only frontier that really matters! WNP
Space—a False Utopia
Occupying space while still in the human flesh will ultimately prove to be a false utopia. Author Maria Benjamin summarized the thoughts of Gerald O'Neill, a Princeton physicist: "O'Neill argued that space flight would eventually ease the population crisis, solve the energy problem, end international conflict and usher in a period of perpetual plenty" (Rocket Dreams, pp. 22-23).
This is a description of what the coming of the Kingdom of God will accomplish, not what mankind will be able to do. If God allowed it, men would only spread the downside of their human nature—with its hostility to the Creator and its inclination toward vanity, greed and self-centeredness—throughout the universe.
With His help, God intends for us to learn to master these negative qualities first. That is why the Bible says: "The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD's; but the earth He has given to the children of men" (Psalm 115:16, NKJV).
Facts About Mars
• The distance from earth to Mars is slightly over 50 percent more than from the earth to the sun.
• Dust storms can cover the whole surface of Mars.
• Mars has two polar ice caps.
• A Martian day lasts 24 hours and 37 minutes.
• Temperatures on the surface of Mars average - 63 degrees Celsius (81 degrees below zero Fahrenheit).
Source: The Sunday Times (London)