Godspeed, John Glenn Print
Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

When astronaut John Glenn made his first orbit around the earth in 1962, I was in the seventh grade.

At that time, I was very interested in space exploration. In the sixth grade, I remember writing an essay about why it was important that we discover what was happening in the “final frontier.”

First to orbit earth

It was exciting to learn about Glenn’s experiences as one of our country’s first seven astronauts. He was the first to orbit earth aboard the Mercury Friendship 7 capsule. He traveled around the globe three times in a flight that lasted just under five hours on February 20, 1962.

An article on Catholic News Service reported that among those watching Glenn’s first space flight was St. John XXIII, who asked to be kept regularly informed about the progress of the flight.

In 1998, Glenn became the oldest man to fly in space. At age 77 and a U.S. senator, he lobbied for two years to serve as a “guinea pig for geriatric studies” by orbiting the earth on the Space Shuttle.

The phrase “Godspeed, John Glenn” was commonly used for his  missions.

Belief in God

On the fourth day of that 1998 mission, Glenn, a Presbyterian, said, “I pray every day. To look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is, to me, impossible. It just strengthens my faith.”

Having an astronaut talk about his belief in God should strengthen our faith and perhaps inspire others to consider believing in a creator.

Why space program?

In more recent years, some people have questioned whether we should continue the space program. They question whether we should be spending money on space exploration when that money could be better used to feed hungry people or for other earthly needs.

I found an interesting article on Catholic Online written by Marshall Connolly. He argues that space exploration helps build a “growing understanding of our universe and our place within creation.”

Also, he points out that space exploration has give us technology that we use every day, including enriched baby food, water purification, portable coolers and warmers, quartz crystal timing equipment, solar energy, weather forecasting, plant research (better crops, stable food supply), environmental analysis, sewage treatment, ultrasound scanners (used for seeing babies in the womb), a wide variety of medical advances, and cellular communications (your phone and mobile devices).

As we wish John Glenn a final Godspeed, we thank him and other astronauts for their bravery in venturing into the unexplored parts of God’s creation. We hope that others will continue to follow in their footsteps.