At 6:55 pm (CST) last night the shuttle Endeavour lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and made a safe, flawless, and beautiful ascent to space. In about an hour, the Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, gave Endeavour a ‘Go for orbital ops,’ meaning that all essential tasks to turn the shuttle from a rocket ship to a space ship had been successfully completed!
According to NASA Public Affairs, “The prime objective of the 15-day mission is to prepare the International Space Station to accommodate six members for long-duration stays. Four planned spacewalks will focus on servicing the station’s two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, or SARJ, which are needed to track the sun for electric power.”
Unlike every other shuttle flight over the last two years, I will be sitting on the sidelines and not playing any part in the mission at all. Because of my current mobilization in the Texas Air National Guard, I’ll be watching this mission on NASA TV…just like the rest of the general public. It’s a bittersweet moment, because as much as I’m enjoying my current ministry opportunities at Ellington Field, I absolutely LOVE working shuttle flights!
As we continue to ask God’s blessing and care over our shuttle and station crews in the days ahead, let me keep with my custom here and take some space for this hymn from the Book of Worship for United States Forces (1974). (BTW, while the words are new to us, the tune for this hymn is familiar and is that for “The Navy Hymn” and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” found here.)
Bless Thou the Astronauts Who Face
Bless Thou the astronauts who face
The vast immensities of space;
And may they know, in air, on land,
Thou holdest them within in thy hand.
O may the small step each doth take
Aid others giant leaps to make.
How excellent in all the earth
Thy name, O God, who gave it birth;
When first upon the moon man trod,
How excellent thy name, O God.
The heavens thy glory doth declare;
Where-e’re we are, Lo! thou are there.
We still upon thy laws depend
As our dominions thus extend,
While from the nations triumph rings
When we mount up with eagles’ wings.
Grant on each planet, far and near,
To all thy glory may appear.
Give all men, for all time to be,
The blessing of tranquility,
As galaxies and quasars share
The knowledge that our God is there!
May future aeons call to mind,
“We came in peace for all mankind.”