NASA Broadcasts MercyMe, Newsboys
Ever since Madalyn Murray O’Hair of the American Atheists sued NASA in 1969, the relationship between the space agency and all things religious has been interesting. Even forty years later, as noted here, American Atheists complained about NASA allowing Astronaut Patrick Forrester to carry a piece of Nate Saint’s airplane with him into space.
Still, NASA hasn’t shied away from all things religious. A previous article noted that God of Wonders has been one of the more popular “wake-up songs” broadcast to the shuttle crew in space. (Each crewman’s family can pick a song as the wake-up call for the start of each day.) The most recent trip (STS-129) just ended, with space shuttle Atlantis returning to Earth just after Thanksgiving. During the mission, the shuttle heard MercyMe’s I Can Only Imagine, the Newsboys’ In Wonder, and Bob Carlisle’s Butterfly Kisses, among several other songs for the crew. (Songs celebrating the wonder of God and his creation seem to be favorites among the astronauts and their families, for what should probably be obvious reasons.)
For most people, its just kind of neat that an astronaut can hear the Newsboys sing of God’s wonder as he looks over the face of the whole earth.
For those that have an odd interest in legal and Constitutional issues, there are no grounds for complaints here, as NASA appears to have made the song selection a free open forum (though they can probably reasonably rely on the good judgment of the astronauts’ families). Of course, such an environment didn’t stop American Atheists from complaining last time, when the AA vice president implied Forrester’s actions hurt America’s reputation in the world.
It is likely that the shuttle wake-up call gets very little notice outside of a few enthusiasts and NASA TV addicts. Still, it is admirable that NASA has apparently allowed the astronauts’ families to select songs at their pleasure, even religious ones. It is entirely appropriate, and Constitutional, to permit “religious” perspectives the same opportunity as others.
It is also appropriate to allow a family to express an intimate moment with their orbiting family member, even if that moment is shared for all the world to hear.