After being dogged by several weeks of various delays, at 6:43 pm (CDT) this evening the shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and made a safe, flawless, and beautiful ascent to space. As is routine, in about an hour, the Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, gave Discovery 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 STS-119 crew members are flying the S6 truss segment and installing the final set of power-generating solar arrays to the International Space Station. The S6 truss will complete the backbone of the station and provide one-fourth of the total power needed to support a crew of six.” Because of the delays, the initial group of four spacewalks has been reduced to three, but all the major mission objectives will still be completed.
After sitting out the last flight, I’ll be back working this one, but STS-119 will be my first flight on “the other side,” i.e. as a civil servant one-step removed from console operations in the Mission Evaluation Room of Mission Control. It’s a bittersweet moment for me, because while I really love the level at which I’m getting to work now, I totally LOVE working console during EVAs!
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.”