“Zero! And liftoff of Space Shuttle Atlantis, on a mission to build, resupply, and to do research on the International Space Station.” This announcement started Barry Wilmore’s commute to work one Monday morning in 2009. Captain Wilmore was piloting his first shuttle flight. What an exotic job! But throughout his career, much more important to him has been his faith in Christ, the Son of God and Creator of the universe.
In his capacity as an official astronaut representing the United States, he must be careful what he says to dignitaries around the world. But he takes every opportunity to speak of Christ and his creation. He even gives behind-the-scenes talks, sharing his experiences and the wonderful affirmations from space of his faith.
Wilmore explains to audiences that most people dream of becoming an astronaut, but few people plot a course to do it. He didn’t either. Yet God orchestrated events for him to be selected by NASA in 2000. He attributes this tremendous opportunity to God’s grace.
“Most kids growing up mention the idea once or twice, but nothing ever comes of it. But here I am, and I’ve had the chance to experience leaving the planet,” he says. “I believe in God’s sovereign plan and purpose, and it’s humbling he allows me to have this opportunity.”
Weightless on the International Space Station.
Waving from inside the International Space Station’s observation cupola.
Mouth of the Amazon River.
Baja, California (The camera is facing south.)
The Nile River at night. Note how cities cluster around the Nile’s life-giving water, leaving the surrounding desert dark. Israel is the light cluster just above the Nile Delta.
The Nile River and Sinai Peninsula. The lights of Israel are at top center.
Florida at night.
Italy and Sicily at night.
United States at night. Lake Erie is visible at top center, and Lake Michigan is to its left. Note the aurora borealis (green glow) over Canada.
Southern tip of Africa, including False Bay (C-shaped bay just left of center) and Capetown (across the hook-shaped peninsula from False Bay).
New Zealand (camera is facing northeast).
The Himalayas. Nepal is on the left and Tibet is on the right.
Before joining NASA, Wilmore worked for the US Navy as a test pilot, earning master’s degrees in electrical engineering and aviation systems along the way. These qualified him to work as a shuttle pilot.
Wilmore is a veteran of two spaceflights. He piloted STS-129 in 2009 and logged more than 259 hours (11 days) in space. His second flight lasted from September 2014 to March 2015. For the first three months, he served as flight engineer for the 41st expedition to the International Space Station. For the remainder of that mission, he served as commander of the 42nd expedition, totaling 167 days in space and performing three spacewalks during this time.
But to him the highlight was seeing Israel on Christmas morning, 2014. He loves to show the footage in his talks.
“When I was in space, I would wake up every day by 4:30 a.m. On Christmas, the Lord gave me a gift when we rotated right over Israel. It was the clearest day ever as we flew over the Holy Land where the Lord lived and died for me.”
Although Wilmore was raised in a Christian home, it wasn’t until he was in his twenties that he began to see the depth of Scripture and how the history in Genesis really does explain our world. “The journey to learn and grow was set on fire, and I am still eagerly learning and growing in his truth,” he told Answers magazine.
Wilmore tells people that you don’t need to go to space to experience the truth that God is the Creator. The all-wise, infallible Maker recorded how the universe came into existence. “The Bible is true, and we can believe creation because of this fact alone.” Yet everything we see in creation, when properly understood, is consistent with this fact.
“Often, I’m asked if I had a spiritual experience in space,” he says. “The answer is always no. I didn’t have to go to space to know my Lord is the true Creator and everything in my life.”
You may not have to be an astronaut to share your faith, but it doesn’t hurt. The visual aids are out of this world!