I’ve mentioned before that I had a childhood fascination with space and hoped to be an astronaut. Though I haven’t made it outside the atmosphere (yet), I still like to keep up with what NASA is doing. This summer the organization reaped the first fruits of a 9 year journey when the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto. The craft has started and will continue to send back data over the next 18 months from its observations of the dwarf-planet and its moons. This mission marks the first time a spacecraft has traveled to Pluto, reaching to the most remote and most mysterious corner of our solar system.
New Horizons has sent back stunning pictures, along with information on Pluto’s topography and chemical makeup. Many people will wonder, “Why would we spend $700 million and wait almost a decade to travel 5 billion miles to a dead, icy rock just to get some pretty pictures and boring data?” Because we are made to explore.
In an interview regarding the New Horizons mission, Dr. Stephen Hawking said, “We explore because we are human, and we want to know.” Dr. Hawking understands that humans have an innate desire to investigate and understand the world around us. It’s a desire built into us by our Creator.
After creating man, God instructs Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…” (Genesis 1:28). God tells mankind to spread out into the world and have dominion over it, and this directive comes down through the ages to us as well. We are to cultivate the wild nature, to bring order to chaos. It is a call that resides within all of us. Man has always been an explorer and we search in order to understand.
By exploring, we are not only obeying our innate call, we are experiencing a greater understanding of who God is. The more we see and know of creation the more we see and know of the Creator. The unfathomable vastness of space is a glimpse of His infiniteness. The awesome beauty of a mountain vista is a glimpse of His majesty. The soul-shaking thunder of a terrible storm is a glimpse of His might. The new scientific discoveries we make every day are a glimpse of His limitless creativity.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
We should not neglect this call to explore. Interplanetary travel may seem a bit of a reach, or maybe the stars just don’t interest you, but we each can be explorers in our own context. Exploring can be as complex as traveling overseas to discover a new culture, or as simple as watching the fireflies dance at dusk in your backyard. These things help us understand more of creation and how our world works, which allows us to see more of our God and answer the call He has placed in us. God has created us to take part in His creation, not just passively exist in it. That He would deign to use us in this way and through it show us glimpses of Himself should turn us to praise and thanksgiving for His great grace and mercy.