American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian astronauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov returned to Earth late Tuesday night after spending the last several months aboard the International Space Station. Kelly and Kornienko each logged just under a year circling the planet, while Volkov orbited for six months. This journey marked Kelly’s fourth time in space, and he now holds the American record for the longest unbroken stay outside of Earth’s orbit.
While the crew had several responsibilities aboard the Space Station, Kelly and Kornienko’s primary purpose was less to carry out experiments and more to be one. As Time‘s Jeffrey Kluger describes, studying the impact of 340 consecutive days in space “will be critical to discovering whether human beings, who have the brass to talk about making a two- or three-year trip to Mars one day, actually have the bodies to back up that boast.” If Kelly and Kornienko can demonstrate over the coming months only temporary and minimal negative effects from their extended stay outside of Earth, NASA and other space agencies can move forward and push the limits even more.
Scientists have much to accomplish before a journey to Mars can be anything other than science fiction. But by working in conjunction with other nations instead of in competition with them, hopefully those answers will come much sooner. And we have reason for hope considering how far our cooperation with other countries has come in recent decades.
Fifty years ago, the idea that the U.S. and Russia would be working together in the pursuit of a better space program was unthinkable. Fresh on the heels of the race to the moon and in the midst of the Cold War, the two world powers had no interest in cooperating. Fortunately, that mentality no longer rules (at least when it comes to space).
As the author of Ecclesiastes notes, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10). The cooperation between the Russian and U.S. space programs demonstrates that we don’t have to agree on everything to work together when we share a common goal. The Body of Christ works the same way.
As fallen, unique people, we will never agree with our fellow believers about everything, but such disagreements should not prevent us from working together towards our shared goal of taking the gospel to those that need to hear it. But if we focus on what separates us instead of what binds us together, then such cooperation becomes impossible and the kingdom suffers as a result.
So the next time you get the chance to work with other Christians in the pursuit of God’s will, remember our common bond in Christ and embrace the chance to experience a small taste of what heaven will be like (Revelation 7:9). A day is coming when such cooperation will simply be a way of life. Why wait?