On Wednesday of this past week, we witnessed a monumental moment in the history of scientific discovery: the European Space Agency landed a man-made spacecraft on a comet. I must admit, I was (and still am) impressed. Scientists flew the Rosetta Spacecraft for ten years, over hundreds of millions of miles through the solar system, using gravitational boosts from Earth and Mars to give the craft the speed necessary to intercept Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta’s mission was to escort the comet on its journey around the sun.
If that isn’t enough, Rosetta also carried a landing module with it. The Philae landing module is roughly the size of a washing machine and is equipped with “harpoons.” Those harpoons are designed to spear the comet to keep Philae secure on its trek around the sun. On Wednesday, Philae landed. Engineers believed the craft bounced twice before finally coming to rest. By Wednesday evening, Philae had sent the first photograph of a comet’s surface back to earth. Considering the Wright brothers historic “first” flight took place merely 111 years ago, catching up to a comet near the orbit of Jupiter and landing on said comet this week is astonishing.
But why? The Rosetta mission has involved some 2,000 individuals, and has cost in the neighborhood of $1.6 billion. Some have given more than a decade of their lives to this mission. One of the European Space Agency’s stated goals for this mission is to seek answers to the question of life’s origins. Perhaps, if they can find organic molecules on the comet, then they can validate the theory of “comet seeding” – that comets provided the raw organic materials necessary for life to begin on our planet.
I am impressed with the faith of anyone who is willing to invest that much of their life and expertise to chase such a far-fetched theory. Even if organic molecules are found on a comet, there is still a colossal leap of faith to get from carbon on a comet to people on a planet. Personally, I am a fan of space exploration. Captain Kirk said it best on Star Trek: that we should “boldly go where no man has gone before.” But in exploring “strange new worlds,” we are not going to find an answer contrary to the one that God has already given us.
Mankind has spent innumerable resources in an attempt to answer the question of our origin. From the Large Hadron Collider built in Europe at the cost of nearly $10 billion to the $1.6 billion Rosetta spacecraft to the countless other experiments performed over the last century, they have all left scientists unable to come up with any reasonable answer to the two most important questions – where did the stuff of the universe come from and how did living stuff come from non-living stuff.
Thankfully, the answers to those questions can be found – not buried in a comet – but in the first sentence spoken to us by our Creator God – “in the beginning, God created the heaven’s and the earth.” Out of nothing, He created everything. You see, I’m all in favor of landing spacecraft on comets – not so we can find a different answer than the one God already gave about our origin, but to see the Heavens declaring the glory of God from a front-row seat.