I grew up in the heyday of the United States space program. From President Kennedy pledging to land a person on the moon “before the decade is out” to the night my mother let us stay up to watch Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, I was addicted. One of the first Mercury astronauts, Scott Carpenter, was from Boulder.
When I stop to consider the expense of all those missions, I recognize that much could have been done with that money. Today, though, I watched the NASA control room as the Mars Rover Exhibition, Perseverance, landed on Mars and I cheered along with the engineers and all those in the control room. I’m excited at the technology that has gone into this expedition, including a helicopter drone that will fly over the surface of Mars.
Humans have long been fascinated with exploration and with the question of “what’s out there?” That is a question that many space travelers asked. Just prior making that short, bold walk on the surface of the moon, Buzz Aldrin paused and took communion. After the dramatic lunar landing, in the stillness of that place and time, Aldrin radioed back to Earth, “This is the LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”
We all have our moments, moments of awe, of wonder —maybe the birth of a child, possibly a sunrise that takes our breath away, or that moment in a musical concert that, without warning, brings us to tears. It is Socrates who has been credited with the adage, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The examined life takes some work. It requires time. It requires silence. It requires asking those big questions and having a heart, mind, and will open to the answers. This season of Lent is an opportunity for us to focus. It can be a time of personal reflection, and spiritual growth. It can be an opportunity to, maybe, ask some of the questions that those astronauts asked.