NASA's Chosen Few: 
      A Higher Calling In The Heavens


        

      by Jon Hanna Editor-in Chief

      A Higher Calling In The Heavens by Jon Hanna, Editor in
      Chief The weather was perfect on that January day in 1986,
      when the space shuttle, Challenger, exploded into a cloud of
      smoke and debris. Millions watched in horror and disbelief (via television) as expectation vanished into confusion. At this very
      critical stage of NASA's propulsion into the future, the space
      program was crippled, and in that paralyzing moment, it was as
      if time stood still. It would be two years before another shuttle
      would be launched in these United States. Since the space
      program began, Americans have been intrigued, amazed and
      inspired by the exploits of astronauts, and those who have
      helped to send them into space. It's no secret that the selection
      process used by NASA is rigorous and intense, producing an
      elite team of the best of the best. Little known, however, is the
      fact that many of these individuals associated with the space
      program are far more in awe of something they view more
      important.

    Astronaut Joe Tanner monitors shuttle systems in
    space where the typical work day is 16 hours. He says
    that going to space was everything he expected it to be and
    more. Back on earth, Tanner and his wife Martha, apply
    themselves to infinitely greater tasks. "It's very important to
    be a part in a local church" says Tanner. Together with their two children, the Tanners attend a local Baptist church. "We realized
    we needed to serve as well as to attend," added Tanner. Today,
    he teaches the 10th & 11th grades at church, and together with
    his wife, he visits schools where he unashamedly confesses playing
    with his food in space and having a relationship with Jesus Christ.

    His wife Martha proclaims, "We are living up to the potential of
    being who God created us to be. We are His hands. We are His
    only means of reaching some people.

    In a nail biting event, astronauts Charles Duke, and John Young
    landed on the moon in April of 1977, with fuel for only 100
    seconds of hover time left." "It was a blast! I had a great time,"
    the jovial Duke exclaimed. However, life was not a laughing matter
    for him or his family. Duke humbly confesses that, at that time, his 
    job was his god and that it had caused problems at home.

    "I hardly knew my kids when I went to the moon. We looked the
    All-American family on the outside, but inside there a lot of
    troubles. In 1975, Duke's wife Dottie gave her life to Jesus.
    Over next two years he noticed "Amazing" changes in her life.
    One day Dottie invited him to a Bible study, and when he gave
    life to Jesus, she couldn't believe it.

    It's been a long time since Duke spent 71 hours on the moon.
    Today, he and Dottie spend their time sharing their secret for a successful marriage with church groups and atmarriage seminars.

    "We go around the world sharing our story and our testimony
    about Jesus," said Duke, "If we concentrate on Jesus, he brings
    us together.

    Astronaut Gary Ross has flown on the space shuttle
    5 times, and has walked in space 4 times. "Flying in space is great,
    but walking in space is like having your cake and eating it too," explained Ross.

    A veteran of 850 hours in space, Ross has had
    many memorable moments. In November of 1995, his shuttle
    docked with a Russian space shuttle. As they shared each others
    food, including American ice cream, he was surprised to see two Christian icons on the wall above their eating area.

    "I don't know how anybody could go through life and not have
    Christ as their Savior and not have the hope of eternal life," says
    Ross.

    Ross believes he is responsible to help spread the gospel of Jesus.
    A member of the United Methodist Church, he recently volunteered with his church to help out at another church in Costa Rica. "I get involved in mission projects because it 's something Christ said we should do," explained Ross.

    Alexander McCool is the manager of the space shuttle projects
    office at the Marshall Space Center. Involved in the American
    rocket program since the mid 50s, he has helped send the first
    rocket into space,helped John Glenn become the first man in
    history to orbit the earth, and helped Neil Armstrong become the
    first man to walk on the moon.

    Two years after the Challenger became a fiery grave in the Florida
    sky, NASA was prepared to try again. In the control room on that
    day, Alexander McCool warned co-worker Gene Thomas, that he
    was going to take his hands and pray with him just before lift off. Initially, Thomas was concerned about what people might think if he was seen holding hands with McCool. But when the time came, both Thomas and McCool laid aside all pride and sought God ?s favor together in prayer. The launch was a success and NASA was back
    in business.

    Gene Thomas will never forget the saddest day in his life. He was NASA?s launch director when the Challenger exploded just 73 seconds into its flight. Although an investigation cleared the space
    center of all responsibility for the explosion, Thomas suffered great
    pain at the loss of his friends on the flight. He was close to all of them. "The Lord spoke to me and said, "I"m still Lord, I'm still in control," recalls Thomas. ?Without Christ in my life, I couldn?t cope with it." Thomas also said that, ?without the Lord?s hand in anything a Christian does, there is no future."  Today he is the Deputy Center Director for NASA. On Christmas Eve, 1968, as the Apollo 8
    made history orbiting the moon, Americans sat by their TV's and
    radios listening to the crew read from Gensis, Chapter 1, which describes how God created the heavens and the earth. The soul
    stirring reading finshed with this sign off; "God bless all of you...all
    of you on the good earth.