Fascinating MSNBC story from 2006 about the revival of Orthodox Worship in a former center of atheism in the Soviet Union. Praise Be to Him, Christ is Born!
For almost half a century, Russian rockets and space travelers have assaulted the heavens from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the Soviet spaceport in Central Asia that was portrayed as the shining symbol of a communist future. Now one of the last sights for departing space crews is the shiny domes of a new Russian Orthodox church — where they have their own way of reaching toward heaven.The city of the space workers was originally named “Leninsk” in honor of the founder of the Soviet state, a champion of the official atheism under which priests were imprisoned and churches were burned. Cosmonauts in the Soviet era were often quoted as joking, “We have been to heaven, and didn’t see God there."
But in a radical cultural revolution, the collapse of the Soviet regime in 1991 unleashed a long-underground religious impulse even among the elite of Soviet society, “rocket scientists” and the military hierarchy.
“Almost every cosmonaut brings with him into space his personal icons,” said Gennady Padalka, who commanded the 9th expedition aboard the international space station in 2004. In addition, a copy of the famous icon of “St. Mary of Kazan” is displayed on a panel in the Russian segment of the station. It was placed there in 2000 by the very first long-term crew.
As the story later relates (NASA, are you listening?)
Father Sergey is also an enthusiast for space exploration, which he sees as making manifest the glory of God. “Man can go into space, that’s good," he told the newspaper. "He can view unbounded horizons, other planets, and appreciate how wisely this entire gigantic “mechanism” was constructed, in which everything is computed literally to the millimeter. And every sane person, discovering all this knowledge himself must say, 'Glory to Thee, O Lord, Who hast so wondrously made it all.'”