Posted by: calloftheandes | September 7, 2009

Piece of Historic Mission Plane Orbiting the Earth on Space Shuttle Discovery

Sources: Mission Aviation Fellowship, Mission Network News, NASA, HCJB Global

A small but significant symbol of evangelical missions is orbiting the earth during the 13-day mission of the Space Shuttle Discovery which launched late Friday, Aug. 28. On board the Discovery is a piece of the Woodbee, the yellow Piper PA-14 plane flown by missionary pilot Nate Saint of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF).

Saint, along with Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully and Roger Youderian, were speared to death in the jungles of Ecuador Jan. 8, 1956, by Waorani (also known as Auca or “savage”) tribesmen after landing their plane in the group’s territory.

The first broadcast of the event on Radio Station HCJB in Quito, Ecuador, along with news coverage by NBC and Life magazine, revealed the missionaries’ tragic story. But their shocking deaths piqued the attention of Christians around the world, generating a new wave of missions fervor in churches.

After contacting MAF about carrying a memento from the plane, astronaut Patrick Forrester received an item from the plane’s battery box. “Bringing attention to and renewing interest in missions would be a great result of this experience,” he said. “My deepest intent is to honor Nate Saint, the Saint family and all missionaries around the world.”

The item was approved by NASA and will be returned to the Idaho-based ministry with a certificate showing it was part of a space flight.

Forrester, who has served as a short-term missionary, heard about Saint and the other four missionary martyrs while attending a Steven Curtis Chapman concert. Most of the tribesmen involved in the killings were later converted to Christianity by relatives of the slain missionaries.

Forrester sees missions in his career flight plan, perhaps serving as a missionary pilot. “We are all called to serve God in some manner,” Forester explained. “I have had the opportunity to participate in several short-term mission trips to Uganda, Canada, Puerto Rico and South Africa. Each time I have developed a heart for the people we served. I believe my wife and I will continue to serve in the mission field for the rest of our lives, whether it is at home or overseas, short-term or full-time.”

The Discovery’s flight includes three spacewalks to replace experiments outside the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory, install a new ammonia storage tank, and return the used one. Ammonia is needed to move excess heat from inside the station to the radiators on the outside of the craft.


  1. […] Chapintza we took a 10-minute flight in a Mission Aviation Fellowship airplane to San Carlos. After trekking on a jungle trail for 15 minutes to Santa Rosa, we were met […]

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