To Infinity and Beyond with NASA Astronaut David Hilmers
Whether it’s an astronaut, professional athlete, doctor, firefighter or President, every child dreams at one point or another of having one of these jobs. Growing up, David Hilmers dreamt of becoming a doctor. However, his dream came along the path of serving in the Marine Corps and then being selected to be on a NASA team of pilots and mission specialists. After four missions to space, Hilmers pursued his dream of serving in the medical field full-time including serving with disaster-relief and medical missionary trips. We talked with Hilmers three years ago about how his faith was impacted when working as an astronaut for NASA and creating a lasting legacy.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.” Psalm 19:1-6
Hilmers reflects on what it was like being an astronaut for NASA and how it affected his relationship with Christ.
“It’s an absolutely unique view of the cosmos, either looking out into space or looking back toward the Earth. I think the latter is even more impressive. It gives you a completely different perspective on it, giving you an idea of the majesty and the creation of what God has made. It says in Psalm 19, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.’ I don’t think there’s ever been a more profound expression of that than what I saw from space. Even getting into space is the most amazing 8.5-minute ride that you can imagine. Going from sitting still on the Earth to 17,500 miles an hour in just a little bit of time, is amazing. On my very first mission in space, I saw my first sunset. It was so beautiful. I was amazed that every 45 minutes you see a sunrise and sunset. I turned to one of my colleagues and asked him if this is how it always is and he told me, ‘It’s just a sunset.’ I kind of relate this experience to our faith. The first time we hear the message of Christ, we take it in and think of how wonderful it is, but it’s so easy to become used to our salvation. We take it for granted, but I know we can’t.”
Hilmers shared about how each of us has the opportunity to leave a legacy and how he wants to leave his.
“I’ve learned that not only can God use me directly in the lives of others, like what he put in my heart as a young kid to help others, but also to be used as an example of what God can accomplish in a life. God has used me, an imperfect being with thoughts, flaws, and imperfections for good. As I look back, at what God has allowed me to do, the astronaut journey was an opening for me to touch a lot of young people’s lives and that they can look up to me, whether it was deserved or not. I think that God has given me that to use as a springboard or sounding board to meet others and tell others about my faith. I don’t think I’m anything really special as far as intelligence or doing things…it’s really God putting things in the right places in the right time and making things happen. He can take something as imperfect as I was and give me the opportunity to do all these things and inspire young people to reach for their dreams. I want to encourage them to have dreams that are worth of what they can do or even higher than what they think they can reach. Even if it seems like your dream is being postponed for many years or you’re too old to achieve it, think about it again. It may be possible. I’d like to leave a legacy for my own kids, grandkids and any other young person out there to look at me as an example of what God can do in a life. I don’t have any big goals of being famous. It really is enough for me to feel like I’ve done something that God wants me to do and has put in me, that is important. Everybody has within themselves the ability to do things for others that God really commands them to do.”
Dream big! God has given each of desires, talents and abilities and He wants us to use them to bring glory to Him. Pray and ask God what He wants you to be doing with your life. Take time to listen and journal thoughts and ideas. You might even consider going on a prayer retreat for a weekend. Some of the books that have inspired us to dream big are Purpose Driven Life, Chasing Daylight and Journey of Desire. Ask your pastor or small group leader for other recommendations.
Look for opportunities to use your gifts and abilities to serve others. It may not necessarily mean a career change. Rather, it could be volunteering with a ministry that uses your skills or mentoring someone else. God wants us to be faithful with all of the opportunities entrusted to us. You don’t have to be perfect to start out. Don’t allow fear to immobilize you. Ask others in your small group or friends to pray for you to have faith to use your gifts. It can be overwhelming at times, but remember that God has given you the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower you to do His will.
Experience God’s creation. Hilmer’s experience of sunset and his colleague is a good reminder to renew our awe and wonder for our relationship with Christ. Take time this week and reflect on Psalm 19. Take a walk and experience nature. Slow down and observe the flowers, ocean waves, and how the birds get food for their families. It is a good reminder of how much the Creator of the universe loves us and wants to have a relationship with us.
To read our entire interview with David Hilmers, click here.