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NASA astronaut and Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Victor Glover poses for a portrait inside the International Space Station’s Kibo laboratory module.
Dialogue
Photo courtesy NASA

‘There are no atheists … on top of rockets’

NASA’s Victor Glover explains his role as an ambassador of both faith and science.

Victor Glover — who served on the International Space Station and will pilot NASA’s Artemis II mission to the moon next year — spoke to B.T. Irwin about his unique perspective as a Christian astronaut.

Following are excerpts of that interview from Episode 20 of The Christian Chronicle Podcast, which have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Victor Glover

Hear our complete interview with NASA astronaut Victor Glover in Episode 20 of our podcast. You’ll also find exclusive interviews on topics including church security and preventing sex abuse. Plus, hear expanded discussions with Chronicle reporters and Christians from around the world.

B.T.: When I think about jobs that take discipline, I cannot imagine any job that takes more discipline than being an astronaut. And you know that “discipline” and “disciple” come from the same root word.

So tell me how the discipline of being an astronaut has influenced the discipline it takes for you to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Victor Glover: You know, my faith and my science and operational and military career are interwoven. I’ve been in the military for 26 years, and I have done these increasingly challenging things. And I would say that all of that is built on a foundation of faith.

My career is fed by my faith, and you know, anytime I do something that’s pretty risky, I pray — before I fly, every time I fly. I fly airplanes a few times a week. Definitely when you go sit on top of a rocket ship.

In the military, there’s a saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. There aren’t any on top of rockets, either, I would think.

But it’s not just that, though. It is just recognizing my mortality. Like you said, how is discipline in this job connected to discipleship?

It’s really interesting to me how working at NASA evokes the conversation about creation.

We talk about our solar system, and I will often refer to the beauty of creation. People hear that, and it’s like a trigger word for certain folks. But that’s in church and at NASA.

When Christians hear I work at NASA, they want to talk about that … and also NASA folks want to talk about it. And so I actually find that I do advocacy for both, and each one makes my commitment to the other stronger.


Related: Christian astronaut to pilot first crewed moon mission since 1972


It’s really interesting how, when I ask people to talk about what theoretical physics says about the beginning of the universe — you’ve probably heard about Big Bang, and it’s this idea of ‘creation versus evolution.’

And I’m not a believer in that conflict.

When you talk about what Big Bang says — there was this explosion, this release of energy and light that cooled, and it got dark. And then there was a collection of mass that was so massive, the gravity it created pulled in, created pressure, and some of them ignited again — you had the first stars, more light, but also spots of darkness and the collection of certain bodies that developed atmospheres and water.

NASA astronaut and Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Victor Glover is pictured during a spacewalk to service the station’s cooling system and communications gear with fellow NASA spacewalker Michael Hopkins (out of frame).

Victor Glover is pictured during a spacewalk to service the station’s cooling system and communications gear.

When you ask somebody to walk through that — say it as a human does — you find if you open the creation story from Genesis, they’re similar.

What I like to remind people is that theoretical physics has actually not said that what’s in the Bible is not how the universe began. And what the Bible says does not discount what we think we know.

The moon is a time capsule for the Earth, and we think it’s old — about 4.5 billion years. And my preacher used to say to me, “Yeah, but NASA is wrong because I know the Earth is about 10,000 years old.”

I said, “How do you know that?”

“The power of the Gospel is not in a timeline. It’s in that message, in that promise. … I had to navigate that because of my faith and my belief in science. I believe in both, and I don’t find them to be in conflict.”

He walked me through the lineages in the Bible, and I said, “But that doesn’t mark any specific time period.”

And it doesn’t need to because the power of the Gospel is not in a timeline. It’s in that message, in that promise, and that promise being kept. So they don’t actually work against each other like some people like to claim that they do.

I had to navigate that because of my faith and my belief in science. I believe in both, and I don’t find them to be in conflict. And I think it’s helped me to be an ambassador to both sides.

B.T.: The legend is that you took prepackaged communion with you when you went into space. Tell us, what is it like to take the Lord’s Supper in space?

Victor Glover: It was special and not special at the same time.

First of all, it felt amazing. It was just — I mean, the perspective, right? I’m in this really unique place. And I was very grateful for that.

Just to be on the space station alive was like experiencing a miracle — all of the technology that had to work perfectly to get there. And so I was in constant prayer and thanksgiving for that working out well.

But when I finally found my communion supplies and had communion the first time, I prayed. My prayer was that every time I take communion that it would feel as special as this.

And when I finished that prayer, what I realized was being in space doesn’t make taking communion special. The fact that God said not just, “Remember me, remember what I did for you” — he said, “Do this, take this action, do this in remembrance of me. Proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again.”

“What I realized was being in space doesn’t make taking communion special. … The beauty of communion is that when we take this, we’re all together in God’s presence, thinking about the sacrifice that was made.”

And so I was like, “Wait, the beauty of communion is that when we take this, we’re all together in God’s presence, thinking about the sacrifice that was made, the lives that we’re supposed to live now and his return.”

And I just went, “Wow, I should have known that before getting here. But now I know that in my bones because I’m doing this in space.”

So it really gave me a new perspective on communion. And when I take communion now, I try to remember that it’s just as special as when I did it in space — not because of where I am, but because of who I am.

B.T.: That’s awesome. You know, Romans Chapter 1, Verse 20, says that ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been seen and understood through the things that God made.

You’ve seen the things that God made that none of us who are bound to Earth have been able to see. What have you come to see then about God’s eternal power and divine nature?

Victor Glover is pictured celebrating his birthday aboard the International Space Station. Glover would return to Earth two days later with his SpaceX Crew-1 crewmates aboard the Crew Dragon Resilience.

Victor Glover is celebrates his birthday aboard the International Space Station. Glover would return to Earth two days later with his SpaceX Crew-1 crewmates aboard the Crew Dragon Resilience.

Victor Glover: So I don’t know if you’ve heard of the overview effect, how someone’s worldview is changed by going to space and seeing the Earth with no borders, no legends, no distance measuring equipment — just the way it is in its beautiful creation.

And that Scripture is what really sits on my heart when I think about that. But since I’ve been back, I realized it’s not just to hold in front of people. I feel like I’m an ambassador — just like I’m an ambassador of the heavenly kingdom, I’m an ambassador of space as well.

And trying to bring that to people — this is maybe one of the most important stories I get to tell: I sat in between everything I’ve ever known and loved.

Shakespeare, Gandhi, Jesus Christ walked that Earth, and I’m looking down at it, everything, my wife and kids are there, and I’m not on that planet. That’s a really interesting perspective.

And then I looked off into the blackness. Sometimes it’s speckled by stars — when the Earth is really bright blue, though, it’s too bright, and you can’t see the stars.

Victor Glover takes a "space-selfie" with his helmet's visor down during a spacewalk to service the station’s cooling system and communications gear with fellow NASA spacewalker Michael Hopkins (out of frame).

Victor Glover takes a “space selfie” with his helmet’s visor down during a spacewalk to service the station’s cooling system and communications gear.

And between those, in this machine that’s keeping me alive, I felt really small and insignificant.

But with all of the resources of NASA and the government, we’ve looked for life elsewhere in the universe, and the only place it exists is on that rock. And it made it seem small but incredibly special.

“With all of the resources of NASA and the government, we’ve looked for life elsewhere in the universe, and the only place it exists is on that rock. And it made it seem small but incredibly special. Why would God think about us?”

Why would God think about us? Why would we have this home in the heavens?

It just was a really interesting moment to feel small because you can see there’s a lot of nothing out there. I mean, it was amazing.

And then to realize that — but there’s so much that’s special about that place — that God would put his hand around it and protect it and allow us to have the safety of that planet.

It was profound to me. It made me really think about our planet and how we take care of it, and our people — how we take care of each other.

I was in Israel talking to a group of Arab students, and at the end of it, one of the kids shouted out, “Thank you, brother!” in English. And I said, “That’s right. We are all brothers and sisters.”

I wish more of us could see it like this, to feel that we’re brothers and sisters.

Filed under: astronaut Dialogue faith and science Features NASA National The Christian Chronicle Podcast Top Stories Victor Glover

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