It’s been more than fifty years since humans have flown to the moon, but NASA recently announced that it would be moving forward with its Artemis II mission, during which four astronauts, Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and Jeremy Hansen will perform a lunar flyby mission in the Orion spacecraft.
And whenever news about space and the cosmos comes out, the inevitable conversation arises about colonization, interplanetary travel, the potential of aliens, and interspecies trade and communication. And when aliens are brought up, the issue of religion inevitably follows, particularly the role of Jesus Christ as the redeemer of the world and universe. Were the aliens redeemed? Was there an alien version of Jesus? And so on and so forth.
It might surprise you to know that Jesus has already been to space, but not in the way you might think. On a recent episode of The Cale Clarke Show, Cale retold the story of astronaut Michael Hopkins, and also got a surprise call from the most recent living person to have walked on the moon!
Michael went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he studied science. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree, he pursued his Master of Science at Stanford University and graduated in 1992. After Stanford, Hopkins received his ROTC Air Force commission and served in the United States Air Force for over 27 years. In 2009, Hopkins became a part of NASA and began training for expeditions. In 2011, he completed his training and prepared for expeditions.
Then, Michael met a girl; a Catholic girl. They fell in love, got married, and had kids. And in 2013, Michael joined his wife Julie and their two boys in the Catholic Church. Later that year, Michael was assigned to his first expedition in space: a 166-day spaceflight to the International Space Station on a Russian spacecraft. He was going to be without the Eucharist for twenty-three weeks.
That was going to be unbearable. As Hopkins put it, the Holy Eucharist was “the source and summit of the Christian life.” It is God’s life within us. Thankfully, Hopkins was going to be deprived of Our Lord. With the help of his pastor and deacon, and with the Russian Space Agency’s approval, he was able to take six consecrated wafers (divided into four pieces each) into space with him and received communion once a week.
As if that story wasn’t amazing enough, Cale’s segment took a wild turn when he received a surprise call from none other than astronaut Harrison Schmitt, the most recent living person to have walked on the moon, and crew member of Apollo 17, which before the Artemis II, was the last moon mission in 1972!
“That’s unbelievable! I never would have imagined that when I mentioned you earlier that you would be listening to the program. That’s incredible,” said Cale.
“I don’t get it all. I’m still actively working, so I can’t listen all the time, but you’re doing a wonderful job. Patrick [Madrid] does a wonderful job. Everybody does great,” said Schmitt.
With Schmitt on the line, Cale took the opportunity to get his thoughts on all things space-related, including the announcement of Artemis II.
“It’s an important mission, if only because it’s going to give the ground people a chance to get more experience in flying to the moon. Deep space is an unforgiving environment, and we, as Apollo astronauts, were very dependent on having thousands of people on Earth looking after our systems, and really helping us manage the operations.
A lot was done on board, but we really needed those folks, and having the experience of working with a crew in deep space is going to be very important.”
Cale followed up with a reference to Schmitt’s comment to the New York Times that he was disappointed that it took so long for NASA to get around to another moon mission, considering it’s been fifty years since the last one.
“What do you think are some of the reasons why this has not happened over the past half-century?” asked Cale.
Schmitt explained that a significant amount of the issues arose during the Cold War, which hamstrung the process of space exploration. But further, he believes the media’s influence played a role.
“I think the media tended to get a little bit disinterested, and so the information reaching the American public was not as extensive as it was early in Apollo. But you have to understand that human exploration has always gone in sort of pulses.”
So though Schmitt was disappointed it’s been so long since the last moon mission, he was not surprised.
“Sir, let me ask you about your own journey into space,” said Cale. “How did that affect your faith? Did it change the way you looked at life and at creation?”
“Cale, I think the main thing it did was create a very strong feeling in me – reinforce a feeling I had, since I was already out there – in just what human beings can do when they put their minds to it; in particular, young human beings.
Young Americans made this happen. There were 450,000 people directly involved in Apollo, and their families of course involved in Apollo as well. And that really made me very much an optimist about what can happen in the future.”
Do aliens exist? Who knows. What matters is that God exists. Space is just yet another mysterious facet of his wondrous creation.
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT