About a week ago, three astronauts took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to join the 32nd mission to the International Space Station. The three are American Sunita Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. They will use their time in space to assist in numerous scientific investigations which will potentially have significant impact on the life and wellbeing of people on earth.
The mascot of the 32nd space mission is Smokey the Bear, the Forest Service symbol of forest fire prevention. NASA has just signed an agreement with the Forest Service to assist them in their vital work. The plumes of smoke from forest fires are visible from outer space, and pictures and other information sent from space are invaluable in determining the range and intensity of a forest fire and how to best combat it.
Thirty two International Space missions. This number ought to give us pause. The matter has become so routine that it hardly attracts any notice. Twenty or thirty years ago, not to mention seventy, the very thought of a cooperative international space mission would have been shocking, totally unrealistic.
No one would have believed that an American astronaut from NASA, a Russian cosmonaut and a Japanese scientist would take off together from somewhere in Kazakhstan to undertake a joint mission for the benefit of mankind, all supported by international funds. Nobody would have believed that it could happen even once... and yet it has become the norm.
A little over half a century ago these three countries were the bitterest of enemies, and the Cold War ended barely two decades ago. Yet today they are fully cooperating in an international mission, and what's more, the world hardly takes any notice. We do not even realize the magnitude of this historic miracle. We have become accustomed to world peace so rapidly, so thoroughly, that it no longer surprises us anymore.
Yet it is important to realize that this is only the beginning. We are about to enter a wondrous age, as prophesied by our sages and prophets -- a time of ultimate peace and tranquility, when all of mankind will unite to serve a joint purpose, for the benefit of all.
Maimonides, in the conclusion of his monumental compendium of Jewish law, Mishneh Torah, writes, “In that time there will be ... no jealousy and no competition.” We are now closer than ever to that long-awaited time, and the best proof is that nobody is surprised at all. Nobody is shocked, because international cooperation has become totally natural... at least in outer space. May it be G-d's will that the Geulah finally permeate physical land as well, with the complete and true Redemption.