Last night Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko returned to earth after spending an unprecedented 340 days at the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits some 250 miles above earth. The ISS has been visited by more than 200 people since its installation in 2000, and during this past year, astronauts from six different nations also spent some time aboard with Scott and Mikhail. Although the second-generation, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Volkov has clocked the most days in space (548), Kelly now has spent 520 days in space, the most among U.S. astronauts, and Kelly reflected, “I’ve been up here for a really long time and sometimes, when I think about it, I feel like I’ve lived my whole life up here.” What were the astronauts doing in space? Well, they had some 400 experiments and tasks to accomplish, so they might have gotten cramped in their tight quarters, but they probably weren’t too bored! Among other things, they were working with the new CALorimetric Electron Telescope (CALET), an instrument built to track the trajectory of cosmic ray particles and measure their charge and energy (particularly electrons and gamma rays) in hopes of finding the signature of dark matter or nearby sources of high-energy particle acceleration. Scientists posit that “dark matter” makes up about one-fourth of the universe’s mass energy, but so far humans have been unable to see it optically and cannot figure out what it is. According to a November 9, 2015 report from NASA, “Right now, scientists are much more certain what dark matter is not, rather than what it is. This research may help scientists identify dark matter and fit it, more accurately, into standard models of the universe.” Lots of food for thought and speculation. The signature of dark matter in space is an enigma to me, but I recognize the signature of spiritual dark matter, and it is not the hand of God; it is the hand of the Evil One, about whom I know less. Another aspect of Kelly’s mission was to help NASA prepare for the hope of landing humans on Mars in the future. As NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden, explained, “Scott has become the first American astronaut to spend a year in space, and in so doing, helped us take one giant leap toward putting boots on Mars.” As part of his year, Kelly even watched The Martian in space, and had this to say: “There were a lot of parallels with that movie to living in space for a long period of time, including growing things in an extreme environment, which we recently finished up doing.” So, if you’re interested, it sounds like The Martian may be more than just a sci-fi survivalist drama. Actually, I really enjoyed it, particularly the protagonist’s (played by Matt Damon) undying optimism toward surviving the unsurvivable by using his ingenuity and working his heart out! When interviewed about his prep for re-entry, Kelly said, “I’m looking down at the Earth right now and it’s 250 miles below me, and only a small portion of that is the atmosphere, and when that Soyuz hits that atmosphere going 17,500 miles an hour, a lot of things have to happen just right to make sure we touch down and parachute safely. So when you look at that big space between us and the speed involved, it’s pretty serious. And it’s something that you definitely think about and consider. But it’s my second time flying the Soyuz, my fourth time flying in space. It’s something I signed up to do, and we’ll be ready for it next Tuesday.” There are spiritual parallels between human bodies surviving on an alien planet without food and water or oxygen, and human spirits surviving in an alien environment where others don’t live on Jesus, the bread and water of life, or find their life in the breath of the Holy Spirit. I was very taken with Kelly’s comments on being prepared to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere, which (in spiritual terms) would amount to landing safely in heaven. Do you know what to expect when your body dies? Are you prepared for your “flight home”? I’m signed up, and I’m ready. I hope you are too!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
(P.S.—If you want to see 10 gorgeous photos of Planet Earth that Kelly took from outer space, you can access them here: http://www.accuweather.com/en/features/trend/10_photos_nasa_astronaut_scott_kelly_year_in_space/55729196 )