Jean and I are in Orlando, Florida enjoying a break with the boys. About 5 o’clock on Sunday night, we learned that the Discovery Space Shuttle was scheduled for a 7:43 p.m. launch at the Kennedy Space Center. Since Cape Canaveral was less than 60 miles away, we piled into the minivan and headed due east. The traffic was pretty heavy so we found a place to park along with about forty other cars in a wide area near the intersection of Highways 417 and 528
Even though we were thirty-five miles from the launch pad, the view was breathtaking. It’s one thing to watch a space shuttle lift off on television. Seeing it in person is nothing short of awe inspiring. About a minute after the launch, the ground around us shook as if we Space Shuttle were experiencing an earthquake. Right on cue, the sound wave which had started as a low rumble from the distance hit us.
We watched as three colorful plumes of smoke from the rockets lit the night sky . . . a deep purple, a brilliant orange, and a bright white near the base of the rocket painted a trail of color in its wake. Jean cried, the boys cheered at the top of their lungs, and folks all around us applauded as the Discovery made it’s way to outer space. My son Trent, the resident scientist in our home, and I said a prayer for them as they hurled 11,000 miles per hour into space. Trent observed that not many people get to travel that fast–maybe only a few dozen over the years.
When we get home, I plan to point the boys to a wonderful web site created by NASA that’s packed with incredible images about Discovery’s mission, the Space Station, and views of space which will expand their understanding of God’s amazing universe. For details of these educational resources, click here. This mission, STS-119, will take a crew of seven astronauts to the International Space Station. Upon arrival, the team will be installing a power-generating solar array on that home away from home.
As I watched the Discovery take flight, I remember when the shuttle Challenger didn’t make it into orbit back on January 28, 1986. People stood right where we stood and saw something awful happen to those fine astronauts. On the evening of that disaster, President Reagan was scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address to the nation. Instead, he paid tribute to those who had lost their lives, saying, “The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'”
President Reagan’s speech is one of the most spiritually accurate I have ever heard. Why? Some day, we will all leave this earthly place and touch something heavenly. Are you sure you know the words of Jesus? I would check them out before you take that last breath.
[Photo: NASA TV]