'The antithesis of the Bible': New NASA official praised for being sworn in on Carl Sagan book

'The antithesis of the Bible': New NASA official praised for being sworn in on Carl Sagan book
Image via NASA/Keegan Barber.

Dr. Makenzie Lystrup became the first-ever female director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) this week, but it was the choreography of her swearing-in ceremony that drew her special praise.

Writing on his Substack “Friendly Atheist,” Hemant Mehta proclaimed “the joy of seeing a NASA official swear her oath on Carl Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot.’” He noted that NASA’s press release didn’t note Lystrup’s choice of books, but it was visible in a photo that accompanied it.

“It’s a little tough to see, but if you zoom in, that’s no Bible,” Mehta wrote. “That’s a copy of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot."

Lystrup, who holds a doctorate in astrophysics, is “a natural fit” to head up the $4 billion GSFC, which is the research laboratory that develops unmanned spacecraft, including the James Webb and Hubble space telescope, Mehta wrote. But he emphasized her selection of Sagan's work.

Mehta wrote, “That title is a reference to the indelible image taken by the Voyager 1 space probe in 1990, which Sagan so memorably talked about in this passage:

“Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

Added Mehta: “It’s the antithesis of the Bible, really, because it suggests we’re not the center of the universe. It's all about how there’s so much we don’t know, so much to explore, and why we shouldn’t take for granted how lucky we are to have the opportunity to answer questions that perplexed our ancestors. It’s motivation for all the work done at the GSFC.”

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