Vanguard I. It was meant to be America’s answer to the Soviet’s Sputnik. But it became an embarrassing “Johnny-come-lately”, the product of a largely unsuccessful program that was scrapped early in the Space Race. The Vanguard program’s horrific track record still makes NASA historians cringe. Only three of the eleven Vanguard launch vehicles ever got off the launch pad. The other eight exploded into spectacular balls of fire. And when Vanguard I finally made it into space on March 17, 1958, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev ridiculed it as the “grapefruit satellite”. Their 184-pound Sputnik I dwarfed the tiny 3-pound, whiskered sphere.
But what Vanguard I lacked in size it made up for in duration. Sputnik I’s batteries died after only 22 days. It plummeted to the earth in a fiery blaze after just a few months. In contrast Vanguard’s solar cells lasted 6 years and it continues to serve the scientific community to this day. By optically tracking Vanguard I, the ancient satellite continues to provide data on the effects upon its orbit by the moon’s gravitational pull, by solar radiation, and by the earth’s atmosphere between its highest (apogee) and lowest (perigee) altitudes. And it provides this data almost fifty years since its launch. It is the oldest space vehicle still in orbit.
Something needs to be said for longevity, for faithfulness, and durability. Praise should go to the “steady plodders,” the “faithful friends,” and the “tireless workers” of our society. We are far too enamored with the meteoric personalities who strive to be the “first” and the “biggest.”
Perhaps the greatest heroes of society are those who quietly and unflinchingly face their routine responsibilities to their spouse, children, family, and work in a society that berates such tasks.
But God sees our labor and our sacrifices. Over and over in Scripture Jesus Christ tells his people “I know your works, your labor, your tribulation, and your perseverance” (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). He is mindful of your sacrifices and faithfulness. God will measure your success according to your faithfulness to the task He gave you.
Dear Father in heaven, give me grace and patience to faithfully fulfill the calling You’ve placed upon my life – to be a parent, a spouse, a soldier, a servant. By Your grace help me to finish the race that You set before me. Amen.