The prospect of colonizing Mars used to be no more than a distant fantasy, but today it seems tantalizingly real. NASA remains committed to building a deep-space passenger capsule called the Orion. Meantime, private companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are bringing excitement to the field. Elon Musk hopes to put 200 colonists on the red planet by 2024.
Much of the discussion about space exploration focuses on its economic benefits. Someday there could be money made from mining precious metals in the asteroid belt or shuttling tourists to off-world vacations. Space colonization eventually could create a multiplanetary economy. But what may be even more profound is space travel’s spiritual effects.
Many astronauts have had religious experiences in space. Charlie Duke, who went to the moon with Apollo 16, was inspired to become a lay witness for Christ. Jim Irwin, a moon walker with Apollo 15, searched for Noah’s Ark after returning home. Gene Cernan, Edgar Mitchell and Rusty Schweickart have also been very public about the metaphysical effects of leaving the Earth. No doubt future astronauts will report similar awakenings.