[FOUNTAIN]Outer space, inner feelings

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[FOUNTAIN]Outer space, inner feelings

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (1934-1968), the Soviet astronaut who became the first human to orbit Earth, said after his 1961 voyage, "The Earth is blue." The citizen of the socialist country also said, "I don't see any god up here."

Astronauts have undergone changes in various ways after their voyages, according to "Return from Space," a book written by the Japanese journalist Takashi Tachibana. James B. Irwin, an astronaut who walked on the moon during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971, later became a devout evangelist. Before his voyage, he was just a churchgoer. Mr. Irwin said that when he saw Earth from space, he recognized that man could not exist without God's grace. Charles M. Duke Jr., another U.S. moonwalker, was also turned into an evangelist, after the Apollo 16 mission in 1972.

Edgar D. Mitchell, who explored the moon during the 1971 Apollo 14 mission, later became a researcher of extrasensory perception. Alan L. Bean devoted his time to creating paintings of the moon landscape, after finishing the Apollo 12 mission in 1969. Harrison H. Schmitt, a lunar module pilot on Apollo 17, the final Apollo moon mission, later served a term as a U.S. senator from New Mexico. Buzz Aldrin, who explored the moon with Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11, the first-ever lunar landing mission, was such a devout Christian that he held a communion service in the spacecraft directly after landing on the moon. But after the voyage, Mr. Aldrin suffered from depression and at one point received treatment at a mental hospital.

It has been reported that the first "space railroad" will be built in the International Space Station, which is being constructed jointly by 16 countries. The space railroad reminds me of an old Japanese television animation series by Leiji Matsumoto, "Galaxy Express 999." Many Koreans may remember the theme song that began with the words, "A train runs through the darkness and across the Milky Way to see the sunshine on the space station..." The series, based on the novel "Night of the Galaxy Railroad," written by Miyazawa Kenji, was popular in Korea from the late 1970s until the early 1980s.

But a man can be changed even if he does not travel in space. By seeing the stars in the night sky, a man can get a fresh view of events and of his relations with others. In recent days, it has been difficult to see stars in the night sky in big cities, due to the yellow sand blown in from China. Outside those cities, however, those stars remain powerful.

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jai-hyun

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