Christians in Space | The Institute for Creation Research

Christians in Space

Many alive today have witnessed the entire history of space flight. Anyone who looked up to see Sputnik cross the sky on October 4, 1957, remembers the panic that set in across the country. The thought of communists beating us to space was intolerable. American prestige sank to a new low when Vanguard, the Navy's attempt to launch a satellite into orbit on December 6, blew up on the launch pad before the watching world. The turning point in the race came with America's first success, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958--50 years ago. Two key figures in this achievement became bold Christians in the years that followed.

Though technical success in space is a collective achievement, the title "father of the space program" or "world's greatest rocket scientist" could defensibly be given to Wernher von Braun.1 Only von Braun took space exploration from childhood dreams to reality. By his death in 1977, his rockets had taken man to the moon and probes to Mars, Venus, and Mercury, with the Voyagers en route to the outer planets.

Explorer 1 launch.

In 1962, an engineer led Dr. von Braun to Christ using a Gideon Bible. Upon praying to repent of sin and receive Christ, the eminent rocket scientist confessed that he felt like a great burden had been lifted off him. He became a fervent Christian, and prayed for the success of his launches. As Apollo 11 lifted off the pad, he was found reciting the Lord's Prayer. Never pushy about his faith, he spoke openly about it when asked. In 1972, he wrote to the California school board to argue for inclusion of non-evolutionary views in science classes. Popular magazine articles by von Braun discussed science's dependence on Christian faith.

Another man behind the success of Explorer 1 was Dr. Henry L. Richter, Jr. (Ph.D., Caltech), the Group Supervisor of Explorer Design and Development. After Explorer 1's success, he continued work on the Ranger, Mariner, and Surveyor programs, eventually leaving JPL for private enterprise and consulting. During those same years of the 1960s, Dr. Richter recognized his need for the Lord and later became a committed Christian. Recently, he published a small book that describes the wonders of life and the universe.2 Richter explains how these intricate designs could not have evolved. The book, which defends a young-earth position, ends with a call to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I received a surprise call from Dr. Richter this past December. At the time, I did not know who he was. Dr. Richter said he had read some of my articles in ICR's magazine and wanted to get acquainted, since he was coming to the lab to work on a documentary film. On the day we met, I was astonished to learn he was a key player in the mission that brought America to space. Now 80 years old and still sharp, he fascinated me with tales of those adventurous days.

A month later, on January 30, JPL had a big 50th-year anniversary celebration for all employees. Dr. Richter was an honored guest among dozens of octogenarian retirees who came for the occasion. I heard him give a speech to employees about Explorer 1. He ended with a bold testimony about how he came to have a glorious relationship with the Designer of the universe.

I can testify from experience that there are many Christians in the space program. They may not write the press releases, but they are there. They do excellent work, witnessing as they can in a mostly secularist/evolutionary environment. Like followers of Jesus Christ in all walks of life, they are the salt and light of the planet.

References

  1. Although Dr. von Braun's research was co-opted by Germany during World War II, von Braun himself was never a supporter of Nazism.
  2. Henry L. Richter, Jr., PhD, PE. 2006. The Universe: A Surprising Cosmological Accident. Longwood, FL: Xulon Press.

* David Coppedge works in the Cassini Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The views expressed are his own.

Cite this article: Coppedge, D. 2008. Christians in Space. Acts & Facts. 37 (4): 15.

The Latest
NEWS
Traces of "Oldest Ancestor" Found
A new study released on March 23, 2020, claims that evolutionary scientists have identified the oldest human ancestor. The fossil evidence for this assertion...

COVID-19
Three Positives from COVID-19
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is no surprise to God. God knew about this pandemic before the dawn of His creation. Some people may question why God allows such...

COVID-19
The Gospel and COVID-19
It is obvious that life in America, and most parts of the world, has drastically changed in the last few months due to the novel coronavirus. Whether we...

COVID-19
A Time for Firsts Amid COVID-19
All of us have experience with firsts, and today is no exception as America sails through the uncharted waters of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19)....

COVID-19
Psalm 8 and COVID-19
Here in Dallas County, we are under “shelter in place” orders as part of the plan to slow the progress of the global coronavirus pandemic.1...

COVID-19
What’s the Difference Between Virus and Bacteria?
As we are embroiled in a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to know the basics of these tragic viral infections and why the medical community...

NEWS
ICR Beginning Search for a New President
As was noted in my article “Biblical Succession” in the April issue of Acts & Facts, the ICR Board of Trustees has authorized a national...

COVID-19
Potential Coronavirus Treatments Enter Large Clinical Trials
Some good news in potential treatment options for COVID-19 was reported in the American journal Science.1 Four new treatment options were being...

NEWS
Yellowstone Supervolcano Unlikely to Blow
For several years, secular scientists have been predicting a possible supervolcano eruption at Yellowstone National Park. Recently, the London Daily Mail...

NEWS
Deep Water Squid Communication Mystifies Scientists
In the deep, dark, cold waters of the Pacific Ocean—about 1,500 feet below the surface— hundreds of Humboldt squid the size of small humans...