Those who aren’t Trekkies may not appreciate the reference, but on August 5 2011, NASA launched a probe named Juno to the planet Jupiter and almost 5 years later entered orbit around the target planet. Juno activated it’s reverse thrusters and entered standard orbital approach around Jupiter on July 4 2016.
The fictional universe of Star Trek was famous for the Enterprise embarking on a historic five year journey into deep space under the command of Captain James T. Kirk. The first Star Trek motion picture featured the return of the ‘Voyager’ probe sent out by NASA back to Earth. In this case the probe Juno is scheduled to orbit Jupiter 37 times, gathering data, before crashing into the surface of the planet. It will be an expensive crash with costs from the project estimated at more than $1,1 billion.
Aboard Juno are three Lego figurines representing Galileo Galilei (the Italian astronomer), the Roman deity Jupiter and his wife Juno. It’s a McGuffin to get kids excited about science and if I’m not mistaken they are the first Legonauts in space! Why Jupiter? It’s only two planets removed from Earth with Mars in the way but it seems to be mostly gas and therefore different from most of the neighbouring planets in the solar system. Scientists and astrophysicists hope to discover more about the beginnings of the universe and answer the question as to why Jupiter is different.
They might do well to consider the counsel of Scripture and the One who made the planets and stars.
Regardless, it’s a massive achievement, sending a probe 2,8 billion kilometres to a ‘nearby’ planet with precise enough calculations to see that it gets there, studies what it is supposed to and sends the telemetry back to Earth.
We have the strong ambition of man to soar on his imagination and extend himself into the heavens but at the same time we have the familiar story of the condition of man which spoils the former. In the intervening five years since Juno was launched a lot of terrible things have been done by human beings to one another, culminating in what was regrettably a Ramadan of death: bombings in Baghdad, the slaughter in Bangladesh, suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia, a gun assault on a Turkish airport, the Pulse massacre, a stabbing in Paris.
In the time it took Juno to travel from Earth, mankind as a race fell further away from God. As with the nature of space the distances and separation from sin causes space to open up between each other and between us and God.
Inhospitable blackness. A void.
But (don’t you just love the fact that there’s a but) God’s mercy closes the distance at warp speed. His mercy is always greater than our sin and if the scientists and astrophysicists could only realise that in trying to examine and describe His Universe, they are looking for Him. And that’s what I meant by the counsel of Scripture.
In the blackness of my own sin I discovered that I’m inches away from His gravitational pull and all it takes is a nudge to bring me into His orbit.
I love Psalm 51, written by David and it typifies for me the journey in a sinful void towards God’s gravitational pull, a coming home:
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.