After making a perfect landing on July 4, Mars Pathfinder has been sending back incredible pictures and data. Much credit goes to the engineers and other individuals who have worked so hard.
But was this technological feat accomplished solely through human cleverness? Where do the ideas come from that put spacecraft on other planets?
As a young physicist working on an earlier space mission, I found myself asking such questions. I couldn't accept that successfully launching a spacecraft on a scientific mission to the planets depended merely on human talent. Yet, that seemed to be the attitude among my colleagues; our clever machines were fundamentally invented by intelligent people, and succeeded because we took extensive precautions to ensure the quality of our work and then were extremely inventive in our responses if the equipment malfunctioned so far away from earth.
As I performed my work, I tried to find a spiritual basis for the machines we were building. I looked in the Bible and in the teachings of Christian Science. Through study and prayer I learned more about the spiritual nature of God's creation. I realized that whatever is good and useful to humankind expresses to some extent the qualities of God. That which appears to be bad involves a misunderstanding of God, who is All.
The Bible has many accounts of nature being controlled through the power of God for the benefit of people. Moses divided the Red Sea to ensure his people safe crossing; the Jordan River was stopped to allow the children of Israel to enter the Promised Land. These incidents took place without apparent evidence of the vast floods a river stoppage would normally cause. Jesus Christ stilled a violent storm and walked on water. Such events, it seems to me, could only have happened because Moses, Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha perceived, as Jesus understood so clearly, God's control of the universe, and not because of supernatural interference.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote: "Creation, evolution, or manifestation, - being in and of Spirit, Mind, and all that really is, - must be spiritual and mental. This is Science, and is susceptible of proof.
"But, say you, is a stone spiritual?
"To erring material sense, No! but to unerring spiritual sense, it is a small manifestation of Mind, a type of spiritual substance, 'the substance of things hoped for' ("Miscellaneous Writings," Pg. 27).
These passages help us to understand that the development and operation of a spacecraft are under divine control to the extent that they are expressive of God, of Mind, of divine intelligence. To the extent that they express the order, intelligence, structure, and strength that have their source in God. We perceive these qualities through spiritual ideas that reflect God. Reflectance, radiance, and irradiance are all terms used by scientists in monitoring measurements of a spacecraft (or lander or rover) to understand the geology of a distant planet or moon.
I began to see a spiritual basis for our activities in exploring the solar system, recognizing God as the source of all the good ideas my colleagues and I had. We reflected intelligence from God, so we would be guided to make the right decisions about the design and testing of these unique space machines.
This insight freed me from feeling stress and personal responsibility. God supplies us with every idea needed for performing a worthy task. I was also freed of the fear of failure - of concern for equipment outside my physical control. It doesn't matter where I am, or where a spacecraft is, when I know that God is in control. God's sphere of control embraces the entire universe; nothing is out of His control, in any place or at any time.
The ideas in this article are applicable to the interaction you may have with a machine - a car, a computer, a washing machine. Machines provide useful service and express in some degree the qualities of God and His creation. By perceiving the spiritual ideas that they express, you can expect to be their master and to find them more useful and less troublesome.
Technological success helps us to understand more of God's creation. That was, indeed, a perfect landing Pathfinder made on Mars - one that proved in yet another way the truth of God's control.