Astronaut Victor Glover wasn’t trying to get away from God as he blasted to the International Space Station in the SpaceX Crew Dragon’s capsule Resilience on Sunday.
As the first African American astronaut to go on a long-term mission, Glover took on board communion cups and the word of God. He plans to utilize the strong internet connection aboard the craft to access faith-based programs, too.
Glover arrived at the ISS with the three other crew members onboard the first commercially developed space vehicle certified by NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration to ferry astronauts up to low-Earth orbit and back again. The crew will stay at the space station until the spring.
Along with reading his Bible and praying, the 44-year-old said in a video interview with the Churches of Christ-associated newspaper Christian Chronicle last week that he also plans to participate in “virtual service” and “virtual giving.”
Glover made his first tweet aboard the Resilience just before 1 p.m. Eastern on Monday.
“Go Crew Dragon, Go Resilience!!! Big thank you to the teams at @NASA and @SpaceX for keeping us safe on the ride up. Next stop, @Space_Station,” he wrote, attaching several pictures of the blastoff.
Glover’s making his first space journey after serving as a Navy F/A-18 carrier pilot who flew combat missions in Iraq. He also previously served as a legislative aide to the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., himself a naval aviator.
“Before I go and even get in an airplane to go on a flight, I say a prayer, and I always think about my family,” Glover said during his interview last week.
He’s been married to his wife, Dionna, for 18 years. They have four children.
She was raised in the Church of Christ just east of the San Francisco Bay and brought him into the denomination best known for its opposition to musical instruments in worship after they met at California Polytechnic State University, according to Christian Chronicle.
“As we’ve grown our family, that’s really when I’ve started to develop a real, true appreciation of my own faith and not just the academic,” he said.
The couple has attended two Houston-area congregations: League City Church of Christ and the Southeast Church of Christ in Friendswood. They’ve been going virtually since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
NASA is headquartered in Clear Lake, in the southcentral part of the Bayou City's metropolitan area.
The Dragon is the first craft designed to fly itself to the space station until it’s time to dock and make a seamless seal with the port.
Glover is the four-person crew’s pilot. But he doesn’t mind the computer guiding the capsule. After the Crew Dragon transported other astronauts to the ISS in May, the crew participated in the craft’s second manned flight.
"I have no misgivings about using a flight computer,” as they’re “really reliable," he told CBS News. "As a stick-and-rudder kind of person, a pilot, coming into this, I had some initial misgivings about a touchscreen display and automation, but I have really appreciated using it for this mission."
In the video interview, Glover wore a sweatshirt saluting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., poet Maya Angelou, civil rights activist Rosa Parks, pioneering educator George Washington Carver and famed boxer Mohammad Ali. All were African American leaders of the past. All were Christian except Ali.
“God doesn’t really have to have a concern for my patriotism, but I am an American, and we were blessed to be born in America,” Glover said in the video. “All of us should understand … the legacy that we’re all a part of. ... I do think we have work to do in terms of making sure that a complete and entire whole story is told.”
Glover and his crewmates — one of whom is a white female and another a male from the Japanese space agency — will help the space station get to full staffing.
After NASA ended the shuttle program, the difficulty getting astronauts to the station brought down the one-time high of 13 to as few as three. Those at the facility conduct scientific experiments, work on machinery and take spacewalks.
As the Dragon is the first commercially developed space vehicle certified to ferry astronauts, NASA wants to stop relying on flights by Russia, which charges up to $90 million per seat.