President Obama spent part of yesterday not running to the post office at the last minute, but at Cape Canaveral in Florida, sharing his vision for the future of the space program. Originally there was much concern over the proposed 2011 budget, which called for the elimination of certain manned space programs, including plans to return to the Moon by 2020. This upset many folk in Houston, who would be facing job cuts and an overall weakened economy. A letter written by astronauts concerned about the plan was sent to the President last week. Their concerns ranged from America losing its prominence in space exploration to losing one of our most successful recruiting tools for reaching future scientists-- astronauts doing things in space.
The President yesterday said total spending for NASA would increase $6 billion over the next five years, which was reassuring to many. But it was the vision of the program-- not the budget-- that interested me. The goal is to send astronauts to orbit Mars in thirty years, and hopefully land them soon after that. My exposure to NASA has been limited to the Space Shuttle program, visits to NASA and the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., etc. I was not around in 1969 when Neil Armstrong took those famous first steps on the Moon. I'd love to witness an even greater achievement than that. Yes, the program is expensive. But it's also ambitious. It sets the bar high. It aspires to move us in a new direction, further than we have ever been.
It's the word Aspire that I want to focus on today. When we aspire to do something, it's not just a goal, something to be checked off a list. Aspire is defined as "to be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value." At their best, NASA, the government, the Texas Rangers, the Boy Scout Troop 289, and even Prosper United Methodist Church aspire to be something they are not-- yet. With a huge amount of hope, ambition, motivated people, and vision, people can achieve amazing things. On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy challenged the USA to land a person on the Moon by the end of the decade. Neil Armstrong took that "one small step" July 20, 1969. That's aspiration to its highest level. If we can send teams of astronauts to the Moon-- and in three decades to Mars-- what else can we do? I mean the scale is different, sure; but you see the point.
Our church needs to aspire to be more than it is today. We don't aspire to do something next week or even next year-- aspiration is so huge it takes years of thoughtful and prayerful debate, discussion, listening, and acting. What could PUMC be in five years? Ten years? Not to be like other churches in town or Plano or wherever-- but to be this one, special, unique, one-of-a-kind place God has in mind for it. As they said on Star Trek, we should boldly go where no one has gone before. We just need to reach out toward the stars and grasp what might be out there.
I hope I live to see the Mars mission, because I was not around for the Moon. As awesome as it would have been to return there again by 2020, the truth is: we've been there several times, and there's more "out there" to see. Our church could also duplicate past successes, but let's reach higher and further. Let's aspire to greatness.