The moon has often been seen as a symbol of the Virgin Mary—as the moon does not generate light of its own, but reflects the light of the sun, so the Virgin reflects and participates in the glory of God. Similarly, as the moon is, in our own day, increasingly viewed as a “launching pad” for reaching more distant outposts in space, so Our Lady is the “white ladder” that joins heaven and earth. Ultimately, the meaning of all space endeavors is tied to the acknowledgment of God, the Creator of the whole universe. Here, too, the beauty of the heavens is a sign of the most beautiful creature ever made—the Mother of God—who herself leads us to the All-Beautiful One.
What is the relationship between supernatural faith and science, and between their respective roles in true human progress? This question has assumed the greatest importance especially since the advent of modern empirical science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and even more so since the beginning of the so-called “space age” a few decades ago. Contrary to common opinion, the two are closely related, and there is a need for the greater part of mankind to be awakened or reawakened to the spiritual realities in order to keep human progress on track and even from imploding. This potential for progress or peril is especially true regarding our rapidly advancing rocket science, since it can be used for the greatest of human progress… or for our utter destruction. In this series, we propose to show how Mary, the Mother of God, is the key in this important discernment—namely, how we are called to cooperate with God in order that our space endeavors may truly redound to his greater glory and, therefore, be the foundation for authentic progress in this life.
There is a growing consensus that we are about to start a new, more spectacular space race than the one that began in the middle of the past century. It gives rise to many vital questions. How are people of faith and Church leaders to participate and to ensure that everyone’s spiritual needs are met in this advancing age? How will we as a society have to deal with the disruption and materialism that such advancements tend to bring, against which a life of faith offers the only adequate remedy? Only when faith and science come together will there be true progress. Thus, “Mary to the moon.”
A New Space Age
The main reason so many people think we are headed to a new space race is due to the massive reductions in the cost to launch rockets by employing reusable rockets. This technology has been pioneered by Elon Musk and his company, SpaceX. These recent developments are currently creating a great deal of media buzz, reawakening and vindicating the faded hopes from the last space age.
During the fifties, sixties and, finally, the seventies, when we last landed on the moon, there were high hopes of starting permanent colonies in space. To make this happen in a feasible way, many concept designs were done by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other leading aerospace institutions to circumvent the high cost of launching material from Earth, by making use of resources from the moon and asteroids which are already in space. This would enable us to build the kind of space habitats, facilities and spaceships that we have thought of as the product of pure science fiction.
However, these ideas all required the ability to launch sufficient quantities of astronauts, equipment and supplies to get started. Thus, we have been in a catch twenty-two, where the cost of launching anything up till now has been so radically high as to be totally prohibitive. The recently retired space shuttle cost $7,500 per pound to launch things. So a gallon of water, which weighs eight pounds, would cost about sixty thousand dollars to launch. This is about the cost of a city bus—an awfully high price to pay for a pail of water!
SpaceX has already brought this cost down almost tenfold. Yet, amazingly, the cost of launching material will drop in the next decade by a factor of over two-hundred-fold as compared to the shuttle, to about thirty-three dollars per pound. That same gallon of water will then only cost two hundred sixty-four dollars to launch. That is still expensive for a gallon of water, but this means one will be able to do far, far more with current space budgets. As such, barring any major disasters on Earth, even if we can achieve only one-quarter of these savings, it is reasonable to expect that, sooner or later, full-scale space colonization will happen.
A Challenge for the New Evangelization
With such high prospects for colonization, the much-talked-about New Evangelization will necessarily assume a more complex dimension. How will the Catholic Church take care of the spiritual needs of those who venture into space? What about the need for places of worship—chapels, churches and even Cathedrals—on these bases and space stations? How will the Church need to govern these new realities? It is clear that we will need to develop new and creative strategies for evangelization.
However, there is another, more ominous, similarity between this space race and the last. As we are gearing up for our great adventure out to space, we are also experiencing greater polarization and strife, both within many countries—including the United States—and internationally. Likewise, the last space race took place in the context of the Cold War and during the domestic unrest of the countercultural and anti-establishment movements. Such strife can easily derail all of our new hopes.
The Danger of Materialism
With such large percentages of our population experiencing dissatisfaction and disenfranchisement at a point in history of unprecedented wealth and hope for even more prosperity, it is clear that we have a need for something beyond mere material wealth. This something extra lies beyond the material, the ephemeral—a relationship with God. He alone provides every individual with what he needs to find fulfillment in this life and in the hereafter. He is also the source of unity and peace even in this life—a unity and peace we need to get to the heavens, that is space, and, when we get there, to make those heavens a truly heavenly place for building a great civilization.
In fact, the main problem in our modern, technological society is a lack of acknowledgement and acceptance of the spiritual realities. This attitude is, in effect, materialistic, because we end up placing all our hopes for happiness on material things and pleasures.
By definition, then, a lack of a spiritual orientation is materialistic. Since technology has no spiritual dimension, then, left by itself, it will feed into materialism. Materialism is, in turn, the main source of the problems in our modern world—for example, pollution, moral decadence, debt, bad health, the breakdown of the family, and inequality of wealth. All of these are hot-button issues that become the rallying cries of the liberal left and conservative right, where each side sees the other as the cause of the problems they are concerned about. In short, it not only causes serious problems, it is divisive.
Even if technology has the potential to unite disparate individuals and groups, this unitive fruit will not come forth unless it is grounded in the spiritual. An example is social media, where everyone was very surprised that what is potentially so unitive has turned out to be so divisive and polarizing. Left to itself, the very technology that should be instrumental for human progress could instead furnish the weapons for a very bloody and very destructive conflict. The same rockets that helped us leap into the space age could even more easily bring us back to the Stone Age.
Thus, all our hopes for stepping out into space can be derailed. But even if we are successful and begin to profitably tap into the vast resources of space, the endeavor could unleash even higher levels of materialism. As some of the most recognized experts point out, the world’s first trillionaires will be those who pioneer the mining of space, flooding the globe with new material wealth. As such, there needs to be a corresponding advancement in the spiritual life to provide an anchor to a world increasingly awash in materialism, to maintain the basis for a true unity, and to defuse those divisive tendencies with potentially catastrophic results. The new space race is merely a particularly opportune time to address a long-standing need to return to our spiritual roots.
Mary is the Key
Before Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world, the pagans considered the heavens, that is, the sky and the stars, to be the abode of the gods. In the Old Testament, man is invited to reflect upon the beauty of the starry heavens and, from there, raise his mind to contemplate the God who created them. We can, thus, draw an analogy between space travel and that spiritual journey toward God—a spiritual journey beginning in this world and ending in heaven to dwell with him forever.
The moon is a well-known and ancient symbol of Mary, the Mother of God. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so the splendor of the Immaculate Virgin Mary reflects the light of the true Sun, God himself. And because Mary brought this light, Jesus Christ, who is God, to us, she can help us in developing a relationship with God. In the case of space travel, the moon is being viewed as a middle ground or base acting in an “intercessory” fashion, i.e., to help “bring” more distant posts “closer” to us, just as Mary brings God close to us. So, the rocket scientists may be closer to our spiritual Mother than they think.
Going from Earth to space using rockets and using the moon as a waypoint is like going from worldly material concerns to union with God, with the help of Mary as our spiritual Mother and Mediatrix. Both journeys start by recognizing the limitations of where we are at and crossing the threshold of new frontiers: astronauts opening new colonies on planets and space stations; people of faith reaching out in prayer beyond this material, created world to God and, ultimately, to heaven. The moon provides the help for the difficult journey to Mars and beyond. Mary helps in the journey to God, bringing us to her divine Son.
If the moon is for the glory of mankind, then Mary is for the glory of God. Materialism excludes the spiritual realities, and this exclusivity explains its divisiveness, drawing people into small exclusive groups, boxing them in and setting them against each other. Materialism is the spiritual equivalent of being stuck on a planet without a rocket. In contrast, supernatural faith transcends material limitations, reaching out to the infinite God. It is the ultimate in “thinking outside of the box.” By its nature it is unitive, because it has for its object God who is one, the eternal unchanging source of all real unity. It breaks the self-indulgent, self-centered aspect of materialism. Our longing to go to the stars, therefore, is akin to a longing for heaven and God, even if not everyone is ready to acknowledge that longing deep within their hearts which have been created for fulfillment in God.
Acknowledgement and authentic development of the spiritual dimension is what is needed to place our technological endeavors in their proper perspective, such that they can truly be harnessed to reap the hoped-for fruits of unity, peace and true progress. Mary is the focal point, because her Son is both God and Man, divine and human natures united in one divine Person. He brings God and mankind together, and this union took place in the womb of Mary. Devotion to Mary keeps the human family united together, because they will then be united to and in God. We come to an encounter with God through the motherly solicitude of Mary.
Some of these insights may help both Catholics and non-Catholics to see how Mary is key to practicing a proper spirituality which is a basis for unity and an effective remedy for materialism, which is the main plague of our times and potentially even more so as we step out into space.
The Dawn of a New Era?
It is important to recognize the materialistic disease that lies at the heart of so many ills and so much divisiveness and confusion in our times. Focusing on resolving this issue will encourage people to work together, enabling us to get past the conflict and paralysis of polarization. Only a solid spiritual life recognizing the primacy of God is the basis for a solution. Only then can we expect to capitalize on the unitive aspects of technology, setting the stage for a progress that addresses and upholds the worth of the human person.
We will then have the possibility of uniting left and right, science and faith, the world of technology and the spiritual life, new ways and old. Progress along the spiritual pathways will go hand-in-hand with the effort to meet the societal needs that will grow with the technological advancements. If we want to establish a permanent presence in space with very earth-like colonies, then only when the church bells toll through these new space colonies, acknowledging the eternal God present in the heavens even from the beginning, can we expect our endeavor to bear fruit.
And so, just as the moon will serve as a vital springboard in this epoch enterprise, so the Virgin Mary is vital in developing and deepening our relationship with the Lord who created the heavens and the earth. May she lead us along in that spiritual adventure that will give true meaning to the space adventure, for the benefit of all mankind.
 The figure of thirty-three dollars per pound is based on an analysis done here: https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/10/spacex-bfr-to-be-lower-cost-than-falcon-1-at-7-million-per-launch.html. This analysis depends on the success of SpaceX’s giant proposed rocket, the BFR, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BFR_(rocket). As such, there are many major technological and financial hurdles to reach this level of savings. However, there have already been many surprising and rapid successes in developing reusable rockets, and BFR development is well on its way. SpaceX also claims that, by making the current Falcon 9 fully reusable (only the first stage is now), improving its durability and making it easier and faster to relaunch, they can reduce the launch cost to as low as one tenth of their current price, which alone would bring the cost down to about $120 per pound: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_reusable_launch_system_development_program. Also, many others are busily developing their own reusable rockets, including Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, which will add competition. One way or another, launch prices are coming down, and this will be a game changer.
 https://www.inquisitr.com/4874112/worlds-first-trillionaire-will-make-their-fortune-in-outer-space-claims-goldman-sachs/ and Aperture video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-Y7OiafFcA and http://www.businessinsider.com/goldman-sachs-space-mining-asteroid-platinum-2017-4?r=UK&IR=T.