So here she is: The space shuttle Endeavour, on the ground at Los Angeles International Airport on September 21, 2012, after her final flight. The shuttle, riding piggyback on a 747, touched down at LAX after a zigzag cruise over California. She’ll spend a few weeks in the hangar, readying for her final ride aboard a trailer to the California Science Center.
I’ve written before about the shuttle astronauts who received communion in Endeavour’s cockpit; but it’s a story that excited the imagination when I first heard it, and it bears retelling as we celebrate the shuttle’s service one last time.
NASA Astronaut Dr. Thomas D. Jones, a Catholic who flew four missions on the space shuttle, tells a dramatic story about experiencing God in space—in the Eucharist, and in Creation. He was aboard the space shuttle Endeavour on a Sunday morning in April 1994; one of his fellow crew was a Eucharistic minister who had brought consecrated hosts aboard in a pyx; and they shared a brief communion service on the flight deck. Tom wrote of his experience, “Our silent reflection was interrupted by a sudden burst of dazzling white light. The sun had risen (as it did 16 times each day) just as we finished Communion, and now its pure radiance streamed through Endeavour’s cockpit windows and bathed us in its warmth. To me, this was a beautiful sign, God’s gentle touch confirming our union with Him.”
Tom continued, “We are designed to be awed in space. If our imperfect species has found such glimmers of delight in our first tentative encounter with the cosmos, then we have truly found a most caring and generous God.”
See the rest of astronaut Tom Jones’ dramatic story in the St. Anthony Messenger (June 2004).
And if you smile to think of our astronaut heroes engaged in prayer for our nation up there on the moon or in earth orbit, check out On a Wing and a Prayer: Astronauts “Touch the Face of God.”
And have you heard of the tiny (1 1/2 inch) Bible which astronaut Edgar Mitchell carried aboard Apollo 14? Here’s that story.