On two different occasions, I spent time with one of the astronauts who had walked on the moon, Colonel James Irwin, as he spoke at the University of British Columbia and the University of Manitoba on the subject of his experience as an astronaut and his sincere faith in God. A friend of mine, Bryan Windle, has an interest in the faith of various astronauts, so I invited him to do a guest post here. (Kirk)
Guest post by Bryan Windle:
Julie Payette, former astronaut and Canadian Governor General recently created a firestorm when she expressed her incredulity that “we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, lo and behold random process.” Coming from a well-educated, former astronaut, her opinion added force to the perception that in 2017, science (often confused with scientism) has settled all debate among surrounding the origin of life.
Her comments, with accompanying eye-roll, were not only offensive to millions of intelligent people of faith, but to many of her former colleagues in the astronaut corps (including her own shuttle pilot for STS-96, Rick Husband) -people who are as well educated and intelligent as she is. A significant number of astronauts, past and present, are people of faith who believe there was “divine intervention” involved in creation.
John Glenn, was the first American to orbit earth and the oldest person to go to space when he did so again at the age of 77 on the Space Shuttle discovery in 1998. Of his experience he stated, “To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible. It just strengthens my faith. I wish there were words to describe what it’s like.”1
Buzz Aldrin, an elder in his Presbyterian church, was the first man to land on the moon, along with Neil Armstrong. One of his first acts on the service of the moon was to read a Bible verse (John 15:5) and celebrate communion with bread and wine. In his own words, “It’s interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon.”2
Ed White, a devout Methodist and the first American to perform a space walk claimed to have “felt the presence of God” during his time outside of his Gemeni 4 spacecraft.3
Moonwalkers James Irwin and Charlie Duke, both born-again Christians expressed faith in a Creator. Irwin once commented, “The hours I spent on the moon were the most thrilling of my life, not because I was there, but because I could feel the presence of God.”4 Duke reflecting on his time on the moon, stated,“Now that I’m a believer, in my mind, I can see that sight and proclaim as the Psalmist did ‘The heavens declare the glory of God. The sky proclaims the work of his hands.’”5
Jack Lousma, flew over 39 million kilometres in space both in Skylab and space shuttles. He says, “The size of the universe is the closest thing to infinity that I can imagine. It helps me to understand just a little bit of the infinite wisdom and power of the Creator-God who I’m convinced made this vast universe.”6
Guy Gardner, space shuttle pilot for STS-27 and STS-35 testified, “In space I had a great appreciation for creation because I have a relationship with the creator.”6
When Commander Rick Husband heard the song, “God of Wonders” as his wake-up call on STS-107 he replied, “Looking out the window, you can really tell He is the God of Wonders, and we sure appreciate being able to look take a look out and enjoy the view.”7
Jerry Ross retired from NASA holding the record for most trips to space as a veteran of seven shuttle missions. He’s had much time to view earth from space and said, “What a tremendous vantage point from which to view God’s beautiful creation we call earth. ‘Then God looked over all he had made, and it was excellent in every way.’ (Genesis 1:31). I have no problem combining my science and my faith. I find it impossible to believe that everything I saw from space was created without God. Science explains many things. We understand more about the universe every day. But there are things that science will never explain. To me, that is evidence of God’s infinite wisdom and power.”8
Mike Fossum is a former astronaut who was part of the space shuttle missions STS-121 and STS124 as well as a mission specialist for Expedition 28 and the commander of Expedition 29 aboard the International Space Station. When I connected with him on Twitter and asked him, “How have your experiences in space impacted you faith in the Creator, he replied, “It’s inspiring to see creation from His point of view.”9
Patrick Forrester was recently appointed as the new Chief of Astronaut Office at NASA. He’s spent over 950 hours in space as part of three shuttle missions, taken four spacewalks, totaling over 25 hours outside of the shuttle, and twice been awarded NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal (2008 and 2010). After one of his spacewalks he said, “I remember being out on the space walk and it’s just your body out there and the earth going by the way it is, just amazed by the beauty of earth in ways that you couldn’t experience inside…I just recognized that God is Creator.”10
Barry Willmore is a current NASA astronaut who has been to space twice, as part of STS-129 and a member of Expedition 41/42 on the International Space Station, where he served as commander for Expedition 42. He was recently interviewed in Answers magazine where he stated, “The Bible is true and we can believe creation because of this fact alone…often, I’m asked if I had a spiritual experience in space. The answer is always no. I didn’t have to go to space to know my Lord is the true Creator and everything in my life.”11
Jeffrey Williams is another current NASA astronaut, who has made three trips to the International Space Station as part of Expeditions 13, 21/22, and 47/48, where he served as commander of Expedition 48, which concluded in Sept. 2016. He described his experience from his first time in the space station stating, “When one views the Earth from orbit through the window of a spacecraft for the first time — and perhaps, most every time — it is normal to be struck by the (obvious) reality that the Earth is a ball in the vastness of space,” he continues. “It is one thing to know that academically, quite another to view it. God really does suspend the Earth on nothing!… “Good science and the Bible are consistent I don’t see any conflict there.”12 He also published the photos he took from space during his 2006 mission aboard the space station in a book entitled, “The Works of His Hands: A View of God’s Creation from Space.”
Numerous astronauts – both past and present – believe that science is not incompatible with the belief that God created the universe. While Julie Payette’s accomplishments in space are to be admired, many other highly intelligent, equally admirable astronauts believe that life did come about through divine intervention, even in 2017.
References and links:
9 Tweet from Mike Fossum @astro_aggie on Oct. 10, 2013
11 “An Astronaut’s Perspective on Creation.” Answers Magazine. September-October 2017: p. 79. Print