Leaving the coast of Florida far behind, the space capsule orbited the earth three times, traveling 81,000 miles in less than four hours.
As the craft began its descent from space, mission controllers in Houston received a warning signal: a sensor indicated that the capsule’s heat shield was in danger of detaching. If the heat shield came loose during re-entry, the capsule would burn like a meteor–and John Glenn would die.
There was no way to fix the problem in space. The capsule was already approaching the outer fringe of the atmosphere. As the tiny spacecraft fell toward Earth, the heat shield glowed red-hot–then white hot. Soon, a hot cloud of ionized gas particles called plasma surrounded the capsule.
Because radio waves cannot penetrate plasma, the spacecraft experienced a total communications blackout–what astronauts and mission controllers call a “black hole” (not to be confused with the black holes that form in space when a star collapses).
Finally, after five minutes of silence, mission controllers heard Glenn’s voice crackling over the radio: “Friendship 7 to Houston.”
Shouts of joy shook the control room. John Glenn was coming home.
It turned out that the warning signal had come from a faulty sensor. Although neither Glenn nor the mission controllers knew it at the time, the heat shield was absolutely firm and reliable. The fears for John Glenn’s safety during this black hole experience were unfounded.
If you’ve ever been through a Joseph Pit experience (Genesis 37), you probably know what a communications “black hole” feels like.
You call out to Him and there is no answer. The silence of a black-hole is deafening. You feel isolated and alone.
You question God’s love, His care for you, and even His existence.
But even when it seems that God is distant and silent, when you feel you are in a black hole of isolation and loneliness, your “heart shield” is still there, firm and reliable.
You may think that your life is out of control and burning like a meteor, but in reality, God, your heat shield, still protects you from the fiery forces that surround you.
By Os Hillman