Of God and space

Like many other Americans, I paused Friday afternoon to watch the liftoff of Atlantis Mission: STS-135. This will be the last Space Shuttle mission and the end of an exciting era of space exploration. As a kid, I used to go with my family to Edwards Air Force Base to watch shuttle landings. The early 1980s in California were so cool and fun. I still recall my spotting of Ricky Schroeder in the gift shop. But the landings were a huge party. Families from all around came and camped out and when the shuttle landed it was exhilarating. My husband and oldest daughter and I joined his family a few years back to watch a launch piloted by a friend of the family. Even though we allotted a full week in case the take-off was rescheduled, it took off after we had left. In any case, I rather appreciated this CNN story on a history of religious moments in space. It begins with a bang:

It may be the first prayer ever uttered by a space traveler: "Dear Lord, please don't let me f- up."

Dubbed "Shepard's Prayer," this brief, irreverent plea is often attributed to the first American in space - the late Alan Shepard - although he reportedly said he was misquoted.

The reporter then leads us through other religious moments, from the reading of the Genesis account of the creation of the universe (Apollo VIII) to the first astronaut to receive communion in space (Lt. Col. Buzz Aldrin) to how a Muslim cosmonaut had to alter his prayer schedule because of how many sunrises the International Space Station went through each day (Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor).

And it ends subtly:

March 2011: Discovery pilot Col. Eric Boe leads astronauts in prayer before lifting off on Discovery's final mission. Boe told spacelaunch.com: "We had a huddle as a team, we just said a quick prayer and just said looking forward to mission and let us do well. It was a good way to get ready for the mission and to give us some focus before we get on the rocket to go."

It's a very brief story but handled nicely. The image I chose to accompany this post is the cover of a book written by one of my co-religionists, Col. Jeffrey Williams: The Work of His Hands: A View of God's Creation from Space. It features the photos he took while in space, along with hist commentary.

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