Humans Have Now “Touched the Sun” (And an AiG Researcher Was Involved!)

by Ken Ham on January 3, 2022
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You may have seen the news reports a few weeks ago stating that humans have now “touched” the sun—well, this exciting NASA mission, featuring the Parker Solar Probe, did indeed “touch” the sun. The probe reached the sun’s atmosphere (the corona), nearly four million miles from the sun’s surface, in order to sample the particles and the magnetic field found there. And an Answers in Genesis (AiG) staff member was involved in this historic mission!

Rob Webb started with AiG in November as our new apologetics and science writer (he’s already published on our website, with more articles in progress, and will be appearing soon on Answers News). Before coming to AiG, Rob was an active rocket scientist with a degree in Aerospace Engineering. He worked as the lead Navigation engineer for various programs, including the Parker Solar Probe mission—the incredible mission that reached the sun’s atmosphere for the first time. Yes, creation scientists do real science!

Yes, creation scientists do real science

I thought this was a great time to introduce Rob to you and have him share how he came to faith in Christ and then eventually to AiG. I asked him to share that with you and also give you some details on the Parker Solar Probe mission he was involved with:

Coming to Faith in Christ

For most of my life, I grew up in a rather secular (atheistic) home, where my family rarely ever went to church. The only times I actually remember going is when I was younger when my mom would insist on us going for special events, like Easter and Christmas, to a local Lutheran church (where I was also baptized as an infant). So naturally, I grew up with a secular outlook on just about everything, not really knowing anything about God or the Bible.

It wasn’t until around early spring of 2012, when I heard (clearly for the first time) the Good News from one of my football buddies from college. I had heard the gospel several times in my past, but it had never actually “clicked” for me until that moment. By God’s providence, my friend was able to clearly articulate the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, in a way that I quickly understood, by mainly focusing on the Law of God (Exodus 20:1–17) bringing about the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20). It was at that moment when I realized my sinful depravity (Romans 3:23) and desperate need for God’s mercy (Ephesians 2:4).

When I became a Christian, it was like a light switch (darkness to light) had flipped on in me, and I immediately began researching various foundational questions that I had (such as the age of the earth). My research inevitably led me to biblical creation organizations like the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and Answers in Genesis (AiG), where I got many of my questions answered from a biblical worldview through the numerous articles and lectures that were available online. I quickly realized the importance of starting all my thinking from the Bible (i.e., through a biblical “lens”). And, praise God, this ultimately led me to the biblical understanding of creation, thus officially becoming a Young-Earth Creationist (YEC).

Rocket Science Career

The year prior to giving my life to Christ, I received a B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2011. Shortly after that, my (newly married) wife and I decided to move to Colorado to start my career with an aerospace company in the Denver area while working on my graduate degree. Then in 2014, I finally received my M.S. in Aerospace Engineering with a concentration in Astrodynamics and Satellite Navigation from the University of Colorado – Boulder.

I then promptly began applying my newly acquired set of skills working in the Guidance, Navigation, & Control (GNC) department for several different interplanetary programs for NASA. This included designing and operating the GNC systems for sending satellites/rovers to Mars (MAVEN/InSight missions), Jupiter (Juno mission), and also asteroid exploration missions (such as OSIRIS-REx).

Then, in 2016, the Lord called my wife and me back home to Arizona, where I started working for another aerospace company as the lead Navigation engineer for various NASA programs, including the Parker Solar Probe mission (first mission to “touch” the sun) and the International Space Station (ISS) commercial resupply missions (delivered supplies/equipment to the onboard astronauts).

Finally, in 2021, the Lord directed my family (which now included three wonderful children) and me to the Northern Kentucky area to work full-time with the Answers in Genesis ministry, thus allowing me to write this for you today!

Parker Solar Probe Mission

During my aerospace career, one of the cool, exciting NASA programs I was a part of was Parker Solar Probe (PSP) that launched August 12, 2018, from Cape Canaveral, which just recently became famous for being the first-ever mission to “touch” the sun. Note, it hasn’t literally touched the sun’s “surface,” but rather it’s the first to enter the corona (outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere) as close as 3.8 million miles, which is more than seven times closer than any other spacecraft in history. For comparison, the earth’s average distance to the sun is 93 million miles. For more details on the mission, click the link here.

For this mission, in order for the PSP spacecraft to get onto its heliocentric orbit (escape trajectory toward the sun), the ULA Delta-IV Heavy rocket needed an extra “boost” (more velocity/energy) after launch. That’s where my company and I came into the picture. Our primary job was to provide the (first-ever) third-stage propulsion system (solid rocket motor) for the Delta-IV vehicle. And this motor provided approximately 20 percent of the velocity and 60 percent of the orbit energy that the PSP spacecraft needed to escape earth’s gravitational pull. This resulted in the spacecraft becoming one of the fastest human-made objects ever launched, with a speed of around 121 miles per second (note, that’s fast enough to travel from L.A. to New York in 20 seconds!).

My main responsibilities involved designing and implementing the primary inertial navigation system (INS) for the third-stage motor’s flight computer (avionics system). In simple terms, this means I helped give the rocket its “driving route” to the sun. As an analogy, the navigation on the rocket is akin to when you’re driving in your car to a specific place and you need to rely on GPS signals (e.g., via Google Maps on your phone) to direct you to the location, with step-by-step instructions along the way. It’s the same sort of idea on the rocket, where the flight computer receives data from the INS (usually at a rate of several hundred times a second) to determine position, velocity, and attitude of the vehicle in space in order to make adjustments (i.e., step-by-step instructions) to the trajectory as necessary.

My main responsibilities involved designing and implementing the primary inertial navigation system (INS) for the third-stage motor’s flight computer (avionics system).

Observational or Historical Science?

Although PSP was a fun mission to work on that had numerous engineering challenges and had some cool observational science aspects (like better understanding how energy/heat moves through the solar corona and what accelerates the solar wind), it was also heavily saturated in evolutionary (naturalistic) “goals.” For example, one objective stated by NASA is, “the Sun is a source of light and heat for life on Earth. The more we know about it, the more we can understand how life on Earth developed.”1 I also would frequently hear from some of my NASA colleagues various cosmological evolution statements on how PSP will help us “better understand” the origin and evolution of the sun and solar system.

This obviously contradicts the biblical creation account as recorded in Genesis (which plainly states the earth was created by God before the sun, not the other way around). Plus, it’s only the biblical worldview anyway that even makes rocket science possible since it’s the only worldview that provides the basis for principles like order and uniformity in nature (which are required to send spacecrafts to the sun). These concepts are not something the atheistic worldview can provide. In the end, the atheist, within their own worldview, can never have certainty whatsoever that any level of predictability in the universe will not change (or even still exist) in the future.

But nonetheless, many atheists in the aerospace industry (hypocritically) still use rocket science to do awesome things in space, like sending spacecraft to “touch” the sun (and many are quite good at it). So in reality, they must be inconsistent to their worldview and actually borrow these concepts from the biblical worldview (including logic) to even use rocket science! This ultimately proves that the “atheist” is not actually an atheist at all but is rather self-deceived and really does know God in their “heart of hearts.” In their rebellion, they look for any possible “excuse” to take glory for themselves instead of giving God the glory only God deserves (Romans 1:21). This is why the Psalmist said, “The fool says in his heart, there is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

But more importantly, Jesus Christ, the one who makes rocket science possible as the Creator and Sustainer (John 1:3; Hebrews 1:3) is also the Redeemer (2 Corinthians 5:19) of our universe, who created you and me in his image (Genesis 1:27), fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and for his glory (Isaiah 43:7).

If you haven’t bent the knee to King Jesus, then the call of the gospel is to repent (turn from your sins) and put your trust completely in Christ, and you will be saved from the wrath of God to come (Romans 5:9). None of us know when we’re going to die, so this is a time-sensitive message. Turn to Christ today for eternal life (John 3:16), and give the glory to the Creator, who makes rocket science possible by the mighty word of his power!

Rob is passionate for the truth of God’s Word and the gospel message, as well as for rocket science and exploring God’s incredible work in the heavens.

As you can see, Rob is passionate for the truth of God’s Word and the gospel message, as well as for rocket science and exploring God’s incredible work in the heavens. Be sure to visit our homepage to read some of his upcoming articles and watch Answers News, our twice-weekly news program, to “meet” Rob on some upcoming episodes. We praise the Lord for great scientists like Rob that the Lord has brought to work with Answers in Genesis.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Ken

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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