November 3, 2014
Is the payoff worth the price? Is the result worthy of the risk?
For the 800 folks on the waiting list – who have either prepaid or placed deposits for tickets to space – those might not be the questions on their minds. The midterm elections – and the control of the Legislative Branch – are commanding the headlines, but the fatal crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two must have registered on their mental screens…
The vision of Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is selling seats for $250,000. The offer: a two-hour journey (there’s no place to go, so it’s a round-trip flight with no destination but back-where-you-started) into weightlessness, and bragging-rights at next year’s holiday parties.
The crash of the test flight in California’s Mojave Desert on Friday may slow the inaugural commercial flight a bit, but the early indications suggest that the A-Listers who are lining up for the carnival ride – folks like Stephen Hawking, Angelina Jolie, Tom Hanks – are staying in their TSA PreCheck lines, awaiting boarding.
David Logsdon, senior director of the Space Enterprise Council at a technology industry group, TechAmerica, said he expected the accidents to trigger congressional hearings and additional oversight of commercial human spaceflight and similar projects. "It’s a minor setback. It may slow things down a little – a few years. We’ve become much more risk averse, but space flight is an inherently risky business."
If money wasn’t an issue… what would you do?
Every lottery winner is confronted with that question, the morning after the results go public. The first kneejerk reaction: quit their job. Assumption: they were only in “it” for the money. Once they had the option, their career was terminal.
For Big Money winners, the calls begin, from relatives and scammers: we have a plan for your newfound excess. No one heads to their bank to snatch 1% APR Certificates of Deposit after they get “the call;” the exotic opportunities rise to the top, like froth in a cappuccino cup. Why not get on the list for a two-hour joyride to space? It’s only money…
Read the Wall Street Journal or Fortune, and more moderate choices await. Watches – priced at the US median household income ($52,250) command color ads. High-rise condos on tropical beaches are second-home trophies available for the cost of just 10 – or, more – tickets to space. Cars that were an indulgence when new, now priced at 10x the original sticker, because they’re “classics.” Less conspicuous, but still consumption; run amok?
It’s easier to villainize cultural celebrities than ourselves, but we ought to be thinking – constantly – about the place where our bucks meet our beliefs. Christians make up 33% of the world’s population, but receive 53% of the world’s annual income… and spend 98% of it on themselves (source 1).
Follow the money: American Christians spend more on the annual audits of their churches and ministries ($810 million) than on all their workers in the non-Christian world (source 2). Are we more accountable to donors for our use of their donations than we are accountable to God for our obedience to the Great Commission?
The tragedy in the Mojave Desert – the loss of the Virgin Galactic pilot – is grievous; how grievous is the death of 30 million people who will die this year, around the world, who never heard the Good News of the Gospel (source 3)?
Here’s the amazing thing: God is offering one-way flights into Eternity, with Him, and no one can afford the tickets: they’re free, on His terms… and there are still seats available!
#1 Source: Barrett, David B., and Todd M. Johnson. 2001. World Christian Trends AD 30 – AD 2200: Interpreting the annual Christian Megacensus. Associate ed. Christopher R. Guidry and Peter F. Crossing. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library. http://www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/documents/gd34.pdf
#2 Source: World Evangelization Research Center. An AD 2001 Reality Check. http://aboutmissions.org/statistics.html
#3 Source: Baxter, Mark R. 2007. The Coming Revolution: Because Status Quo Missions Won’t Finish the Job. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing.