Space and the Solar Systen

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W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't ever remember being interested in Space as a child but recently I've become very interested in it and multiple paths that were seemingly unrelated have converged almost providentially pointing me toward the subject.

I decided recently that the language I want to study through the end of high school and college will be Russian. Along with beginning to study the language I decided to begin a study of Leninist socialism and the Soviet Union from a Reformed perspective (last time I studied this subject much I was not the same theologically). Along with a study of the USSR I've been really interested in their cosmonaut history, especially Yuri Gagarin.

Unrelated, my sister (USAF officer, soon to be surgeon, double major in chemistry and biology) spent a week with us and helped me with my science (currently chemistry), which was always my least favorite subject because I never understood it at all. Thanks to her I began to understand my science work a lot more and the previously unthinkable happened: I began to enjoy studying it.

As all of this has happened within the same span of time, a new interest and passion for science and space, I can't help but think something in my future might be related to it. I've even discussed with my mother the possibility of being an officer in the Space Force, not to be an astronaut, but to be closer to the research and discoveries. I know that in years past there have been some different viewpoints on this board on space travel and research. I would appreciate any advice, questions, or prayers. Thank you.


Puritan Board Junior
@W.C. Dean

I love astronomy. I was watching with anticipation last year for the release of the first ever photo of a black hole. The glory of God lies open before us in immense galaxies, black holes, colorful nebulae, and the near-infinite depths of space. Dive in! Go and enjoy and worship their Maker!
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Puritan Board Freshman
That sounds great! I wonder if you'd be closest to research and discoveries if you chose to go into scientific research -- particularly astronomy? That's assuming you're more interested in the cutting edge of astronomy rather than the space travel side of things.

Whatever you decide to do, I'm sure physics and math are going to be quite important in everything from engineering to astronomy. For a great introduction to physics, I can't recommend anything more than Feynman's Lectures. I'm still working my way through them, and some of it might be outdated, but there is a lot that's very well taught, and it shouldn't be too hard to get up to speed when you formally study the subject. I don't like videos, but I make an exception for Khan Academy, which is pretty good for mathematics.

From the perspective of your faith, cosmology - the study of the origin of the universe -- will perhaps be something to wrestle with. I would speak with a wise minister who cares for your soul rather than someone on a forum, but I will give you my perspective. Whereas God's revelation is complete and perfect, science is not and that's perfectly alright! Science thrives on being proved wrong just as much as it does on being proved right. It's always learning and growing and improving theories.

Physical science is necessarily materialistic -- it can't take the supernatural into account. We will never have a theory in physics or chemistry or biology that proves that Jesus rose from the dead. We do have the science of history which establishes that the facts show this is what happened. There are sciences that can talk about the supernatural, namely theology and philosophy. But the physical sciences can't deal with these issues. The trouble is that the world is not materialistic, and so the physical sciences will never be perfect in the way they describe the universe. But that doesn't mean we give up as we just try to get more and more accurate while remembering the limitations of our field.

Of course, when the rubber hits the road there's all sorts of biases and funding issues and p-hacking and personalities and politics that unfortunately mars the beautiful ideal of science. But I would say that you must never lose your delight -- the fallen universe is still very, very beautiful and science is a great tool to see more and more of the glory and wisdom of God in nature.


Puritan Board Senior
Well, it certainly isn't a bad thing to try studying astronomy or physics (or some sort of engineering) in university and seeing if you like it! You will need to be very good at math though--not necessarily proofs, but carrying out computations and solving equations. Depending on which path you go, you will eventually need to know how to do some coding (both symbolic and numeric) in order to do calculations. Unless you take a computational/applied path (or double major in a marketable degree), you will also have nearly zero job prospects outside of academia...which is fine if you don't mind doing the whole postdoc thing and having little control over where you live in the country (or world, for that matter).

The sciences, especially the hard sciences, will often ensure that you will have little social life while studying them, if you want to study and do well in them.

I don't know too much about NASA related tracks, but you might check out the physicsforums and seeing if they have any info on how people go about that route. I recall that my friends who went that route either majored in some sort of mechanical engineering or astrophysics/physics with astro focus.

I'm not against space exploration, but I do think the enthusiasm and romanticism displayed in the media needs to be dampened. Space is a harsh environment in which life does not belong. It is bathed in radiation and harmful cosmic rays. Most of it is empty and void and cold. No other definitely habitable planet or rock has been found yet. We have real problems on earth that we need to solve and a finite number of resources to use: it takes some of those precious finite resources to explore space.

Keeping enthusiasm within realistic and sensible boundaries though, there are lots of beautiful objects out there and plenty to learn about them! And the technological push from space research often turns around and pushes technology on earth.
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