First, the plans to build a permanent base on the Moon soon after astronauts return there in 2020 and to be fully staffed by 2024.
Why go back to the Moon? You can read NASA’s full reasoning here, where they boil it down to six reasons: extending human civilization, pursuit of scientific knowledge, an opportunity to cooperate globally, economic expansion that would benefit life on Earth, public engagement, and aid in exploration efforts to Mars (and beyond).
That last one—exploration efforts to Mars—dovetails nicely into NASA’s other good day: the news of potential evidence water on Mars. (Heh, for a great twist on that, see TheSpoof.com—the photo is the best.) The speculation comes from the comparison of images of the Centauri Montes area:
The images do not actually show flowing water. Rather, they show changes in craters that provide the strongest evidence yet that water coursed through them as recently as several years ago, and is perhaps doing so even now.Why the big deal? Because if there’s water on Mars, there could be life. And, as this blog’s ruminated before, that brings God-talk into open spaces.
For years, people have been debating about what it would mean to find life on another planet in our solar system. Besides the obvious evolution/creation debate, another question always raises: What would finding microscopic life on other worlds mean to Christian theology and faith? Many scientists who are Christians as well as Christian apologists and theologians muse it can only increase our sense of wonder at the creation God has made – and I’m right there with them. I love this response from Richard J. Mouw (president of Fuller Theological Seminary and professor of Christian Philosophy) when he was asked by a reporter what finding life on Mars would mean to Christianity in 1997 :
Nothing in my theology rules out the possibility of living organisms on other planets.That sense of wonder is what draws me to news about science and space. It is the bottom line for me when it comes to space exploration—be it on the Moon, Mars or far beyond. God’s creation is incredible, awe-full and draws me ever out. It stirs the bottom of my soul with deep, broad, goose-bumped sweeps. It reminds me of him.
He pushed further: "But suppose they discovered intelligent life. Doesn't it bother you to think that humans are not the only thinking beings in the cosmos?"
"No," I answered. "If such beings turn out to be unfallen, we would want to figure out ways to learn from them. If they are fallen, we would have to devise strategies to evangelize them."
He kept pushing. "But for you Christians, who take the Bible as the true revelation of what reality is all about, doesn't the idea of many worlds throw your theology into a tailspin?"
Since I have learned much of my theology from hymns, I decided to quote one. I reminded the reporter that one of the most popular hymns sung at Billy Graham crusades is "How Great Thou Art." I quoted the first line: "O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made … "
This was no pious evasion. The hymn writer is making a profound theological point.
Creation is vast and complex. To consider God's awesome creating purposes is to be full of wonder. The Bible presents us with a "wonder-full" view of reality.
We need to cultivate this sense of wonder as we think about the meaning of scientific and technological advances. To be sure, not every "discovery" is something we ought to celebrate. Ancient errors and distortions regularly reappear in the disguise of "the new." But we will be best equipped to discern the genuine from the counterfeit if we are accustomed-not to a mood of fundamental worry—but to an experience of wonder that is grounded in a biblical perspective on reality.
And that's more than enough to make my day.