by guest blogger, BroKen
In the movie The Right Stuff, proud test pilots are reluctant to join NASA because the role given to them is essentially as guinea pigs not pilots. The space capsule isn't really a craft that needs a pilot since even a chimp could take the ride. If they are going to sit atop a tower of explosives called a rocket, then they want to have some input that determines the outcome. They derisively call those inside such a capsule “spam in a can”.
There are stark differences between the Mercury program of NASA, which the first seven astronauts flew into orbit, and the contemporary X-15 program. The X-15 was a rocket with wings. Mercury was a box to sit in. The X-15 literally flew to edge of space and then glided back down through the heat of re-entry. That rocket plane was canceled though it returned, sort of, as the space shuttle.
One of the pilots of the X-15 was Neil Armstrong who died last week. Of course, he will always be remembered for being the first to set foot on the moon while saying, “One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.” He was among the second group of pilots chosen to be astronauts. He flew into orbit in a Gemini capsule which did need a pilot's input. His was the first to dock in orbit with another craft and when the capsule began to spin wildly, it took his skill as a pilot to get it back under control. Then, as the commander of Apollo 11, he made the decision to override the computer's plan to land on a slope where boulders the size of cars would endanger the craft, to “fly it like a helicopter” over to a flat area without rocks. Neil Armstrong was the epitome of the pilot's “right stuff.”
But I wonder, did he have the right stuff to make a safe landing at the end of the much more important journey of his life... of all our lives? Has he touched down in the kingdom of God? And what is the “right stuff” in that context, anyway?
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Neil Armstrong was the way he handled the fame flung in his direction. He downplayed his contribution in reaching the moon recognizing that hundreds of thousands of people working behind the scenes made his role possible. He rejected the limelight protesting that “he was just doing his job”.
I suggest to you that Neil Armstrong's humble life demonstrates the “right stuff” of God even more than reaching the moon demonstrates the “right stuff” of pilots. Neil Armstrong is a paradox. He took control when necessary, yet never claimed that his input was anything special.
In life, our input is to place ourselves into God's capsule trusting that He has done what is necessary to get us to the destination. May God's grace bring Neil Armstrong home.