Where do we go from here?
After NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong took his “one small step for [a] man,” no one aware of the accomplishment could ever look at the Moon in the same way again. Before Apollo 11, the Moon had been a distant light in the sky, moving through its regular phases and serving humanity in various ways (cf. Genesis 1:14–18; Deuteronomy 33:14; Psalm 104:19)—sometimes even becoming the focus of idolatrous worship (cf. Deuteronomy 4:19). After Apollo 11, Earth’s once-mysterious satellite became “the world next door.” Yes, there had been unmanned landings before Apollo 11. But ever since Armstrong put human footprints on lunar soil, those on the cutting edge of human accomplishment have asked, “Where do we go from here?”
Other manned missions in the Apollo series had reached the Moon—including Apollo 8, which gave us an iconic photograph of our planet at “Earthrise” over the Moon—but none had sent a manned lunar excursion module to its surface. We can appreciate why admirers around the world stopped and took notice when Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, died in August 2012. We are sobered to realize that, of the twelve men who have walked on the Moon, just four are alive today.
Considering the manned and unmanned missions that Earth has sent—and wishes to send—into space, “Where do we go from here?” is a very good question. For those who take the Bible seriously, the question may become even more poignant when we read that, at present, “the heavens [including the Moon] are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the sons of men” (Psalm 115:16, Revised Standard Version). Are we as human beings perhaps too much in a hurry, trying to conquer what the Eternal God wants to give us anyway (cf. Romans 8:28–32; Hebrews 2:5–8; Revelation 21:5–7)? Might we expect the Divine Landlord to undermine our efforts one day—or, perhaps, to let them collapse under their own weight? The Columbia and Challenger shuttle disasters remind us that our efforts are fraught with human frailty and danger.
Neil Armstrong was lauded for bringing both personal integrity and technical competence to his tasks. Will humanity always follow his example as it journeys into space? Not in our current state! To grow, mankind does need far-reaching goals, but striving to master the world around us before we have mastered the world within us is not the proper order for such goals! Many people recognize this. They see our lack of proper stewardship of planet Earth, of life upon it, and of our own affairs, and they shudder to think of what will happen as we expand our general lack of character into space. We have, in fact, begun to do so—through surveillance satellites, space weaponry, and even masses of “space junk.” And we will do much, much worse, given the opportunity.
Thankfully, the day is coming when the Creator of the universe will direct us to rebuild our society “from scratch.” After a thousand years of His wise rule, and a final Day of Judgment (Revelation 20:4–6, 12–13), humanity will have learned the proper way to govern the earth and life upon it, as God intended from the beginning. Then every galaxy, every star, and every planet, moon, and asteroid, wherever they may be found, will be “worlds next door” for us as God’s glorified children, and we will rule with Him over all that exists, forever and ever!