At 1:28 am (EDT) today the shuttle Endeavour lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and made a safe, flawless, and beautiful ascent to space. Within the hour, the Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, gave Endeavour a ‘Go for orbital ops,’ meaning that all essential tasks to turn the shuttle from a rocket ship to a space ship had been successfully completed!
Like the STS-120 flight in October, I am the Extravehicular Activity (i.e., spacewalk) Operations Safety lead for the flight and have had the great privilege of being involved in just about every facet of training and pre-launch activity...but it all comes to bear now as we actually get to go do the mission!
This flight will be the longest construction mission to the International Space Station ever and has five planned spacewalks to assemble a new extension to the station's robotic arm as well as the first of several Japanese laboratory modules. Lots of action to keep us busy over the next two weeks.
As we continue to ask God’s blessing and care over our shuttle and station crews in the days ahead, let me keep with my custom here and take some space for this hymn from the Book of Worship for United States Forces (1974). (BTW, while the words are new to us, the tune for this hymn is familiar and is that for “The Navy Hymn” and “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” found here.)
Bless Thou the Astronauts Who Face
Bless Thou the astronauts who face
The vast immensities of space;
And may they know, in air, on land,
Thou holdest them within in thy hand.
O may the small step each doth take
Aid others giant leaps to make.
How excellent in all the earth
Thy name, O God, who gave it birth;
When first upon the moon man trod,
How excellent thy name, O God.
The heavens thy glory doth declare;
Where-e’re we are, Lo! thou are there.
We still upon thy laws depend
As our dominions thus extend,
While from the nations triumph rings
When we mount up with eagles’ wings.
Grant on each planet, far and near,
To all thy glory may appear.
Give all men, for all time to be,
The blessing of tranquility,
As galaxies and quasars share
The knowledge that our God is there!
May future aeons call to mind,
“We came in peace for all mankind.”