Destination Mars?

by Pastor Doug Engel

Over the last decade or so there has been a renewed interest in going to the moon and even to Mars. Personally I believe Mars is a little out of reach in our life-time. There are so many challenges to overcome. Going to the moon is tough enough and it’s only 384,400 km from the earth. Imagine heading to Mars that’s an average of 225 million km away!

Distance isn’t the only problem facing an expedition to Mars. The long exposure to weightlessness could cause astronauts to lose more than 40 percent of their muscle strength even with regular exercise. On a long voyage, a healthy 30 to 50 year-old astronaut could end up with the strength of an 80 year-old. By the time an astronaut got to the red planet they would probably be too weak to do even the simplest of tasks. But the dream lives on.

In 1962 John F. Kennedy gave a famous speech at Rice University. “‘But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal?’ ... We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; ... [this] challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”

It kind of reminds me of the culture and thinking around the Tower of Babel. In Genesis 11, after the flood, the whole earth had only one language. “Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly ... let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’” (Gen. 11:3-4).

All through human history mankind has attempted to reach the heavens just to make a name for themselves. This not only shows up in the space race but also in who can build the tallest skyscraper! Oklahoma City council just approved the plans to build the tallest building in the United States. At 1,907 feet tall it would be the 5th tallest building in the world. The tallest is in Dubai, boasting a whopping 2,717 feet tall!

There are two things inherently wrong with all of this reaching for the heavens.

First, this push to make a name for yourself rarely turns out the way we imagine. The idea of promoting yourself (usually above someone else) has “pride” written all over it. There is a virtuous side of pride that isn’t sin but the dark side of pride is so dangerous. Isaiah gives us a glimpse of Satan’s pride. “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God ... I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13-14). Augustine said it well; “It was Pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”

Second, the idea of reaching the heavens and thriving among the stars might be good subject matter in a science fiction movie but it really isn’t practical. The cost is “out of this world!” Sorry. I had to say that! Sir Richard Branson was charging $450,000 for tourists to travel in the Virgin Galactic to the edge of space. NASA to the moon? It will cost over 4 billion!

There is an easier way! Jesus promised that he was going away to “prepare a place” for us (John 14:2) and that if he was going away to do that then he would surely come back to get us. The best part is that He’s already paid our fare! Interested? I’ve reserved my seat with a resounding “YES!”