FromDesk of… As our spaceships soar
By Victor Doughty, Lt. Colonel
Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away an iconic film first appeared on the silver screen. May 25 marks the 35th anniversary of Star Wars, the classic intergalactic battle between good and evil.
According to Los Angeles-based writer Josh Jenisch, “he Star Wars legacy is about much more than box office mojo and poseable action figures—it’s about community. The franchise brings people as diverse as the customers at Chalmun’s Spaceport Cantina together at conventions, festivals, costume balls, not to mention Legoland and Disney theme parks around the world.” Jenisch invites you to “dust off your stormtrooper helmets, unsheathe your lightsaber” and join in the festivities. Thirty-five years after its initial launch, Star Wars continues to be a powerful force in the lives of fans both young and old.
Meanwhile, a bit closer to our galaxy, the future of space travel has become somewhat controversial as of late. Economic realities have hit the aerospace industry and agencies like NASA are being forced to make difficult choices. The move away from government-funded manned space flight toward privatization and unmanned space vehicles seems to be the wave of the future.
Astronaut Rex Walheim, a member of the final space shuttle mission, sees it this way: “It makes sense to retire the space shuttle if, and only if, we take that money to build the next system that will go farther, to explore the solar system, to explore things beyond the Earth. If we don’t, it’s very easy—especially in these times of austerity for that money to get pulled away to other uses. We want to get back to where we’re the leader in the space industry. If we’re not, other countries will take up the mantle. Just like exploring the New World, there were countries that decided to be explorers, and countries that didn’t. If we don’t keep exploring, we’re going to be left behind.”
One of the more intriguing developments in aerospace is taking place in the deserts of New Mexico at Spaceport America, not far from the town of Truth or Consequences. Before the end of 2012, Virgin Galactic plans to offer the world’s first private spaceflight service. Virgin CEO, Richard Branson, is offering his customers a three-day flight experience beginning with several days of training and preparation. On launch day, passengers will travel first to 50,000 feet, then be propelled to 350,000 feet at 2,500 miles per hour, three times the speed of sound. According to local writer, Paul Zieke: “Passengers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness before gliding back to the spaceport.” The cost for this sub-orbital adventure is a mere $200,000 per person. Deposits of $20,000 each are being accepted with 400 prospective astronauts already signed up. Branson describes the feeling of anticipation as launch day approaches as “so close we can almost taste it.”
Way back in 1963—before Gemini and Apollo, long before the first space shuttle mission was envisioned, before Luke Skywalker was even a twinkle in George Lucas’ eye—Salvationist poet Miriam Richards provided space-age lyrics that are now part of our song book (no. 27). Her words help put science and technology, exploration and discovery, and aspiration and truth in proper perspective:
Beyond the farthest bounds of earth,
Beyond the ocean’s line,
Beyond the starlit universe
We sense a power divine.
The lines and circles, planes and arcs
Which we by science trace
All indicate a master mind,
Its beauty, truth and grace.
Like searching eyes earth’s telescopes
The fiery heavens scan;
And now the music of the spheres
Is heard by listening man.
Lord, as we seek for vaster truth,
And as our spaceships soar,
Help us to recognize your might
And praise your mercy more.
For you, who set the ordinance
Of worlds beyond our sight,
Have given us minds desiring truth
And hearts that know delight.
Lord, teach us in your only Son
To reach the way we dream,
To follow truth as he knew truth,
And find the life supreme.
May the true force be with you!