The "Missing Day" Found by NASA

There is a story circulating that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has proven that there was a "missing day" in the past, just as a story in the Bible relates. While I've seen many Web sites simply repeating the story, and few claiming that it is not true, I haven't seen much anything explaining why this story is unlikely to be true. I am quite aware that I am wading into an area typically fraught with danger and that it is not clear anything that I say, no matter how reasonable, can change anybody's mind. Nonetheless, if a more scientific perspective is wanted, read on.

Another reason why this story is unlikely to be true also exists. Though I cannot verify this one, the notion that a minor adjustment of a few seconds got blown way out of proportion sounds much more plausible.


The "Missing Day" Story

Did you know that the space program is busy proving that what has been called myth in the Bible is true? Mr. Harold Hill, President of the Curtis Engine Company in Baltimore Maryland and a consultant in the space program, relates the following development:

I think one of the most amazing things that God has for us today happened recently to our astronauts and space scientists at Green Belt, Maryland. They were checking the position of the sun, moon, and planets out in space where they would be 100 years and 1000 years from now.. We have to know this so we won't send a satellite, up and have it bump into something later on during its orbits. We have to lay out the orbits in terms of the life of the satellite, and where the planets will be so the whole thing will not bog down..

They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong either with the information fed into it or with the results as compared to the standards. They called in the service department to check it out and they said what's wrong?

Well they found there is a day missing in space in elapsed time. They scratched their heads and tore their hair. There was no answer. Finally, a Christian man on the team said, You know, one time I was in Sunday school and they talked about the sun standing still. While they didn't believe him,they didn't have an answer either, so they said, Show us. He got a Bible and went back to the book of Joshua where they found a pretty ridiculous statement for any one with common sense.

There they found the Lord saying to Joshua, Fear them not, I have delivered them into thy hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee. Joshua was concerned because he was surrounded by the enemy and if darkness fell they would overpower them. So Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still! That's right---The sun stood still and the moon stayed---and hasted not to go down about a whole day!

The astronauts and scientists said, There is the missing day! They checked the computers going back into the time it was written and found it was close but not close enough. The elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua's day was 23 hours and 20 minutes---not a whole day. They read the Bible and there it was about (approximately) a day.

These little words in the Bible are important, but they were still in trouble because if you cannot account for 40 minutes you'll still be in trouble 1000 years from now. Forty minutes had to be found because it can be multiplied many times over in orbits..

As the Christian employee thought about it, remembered somewhere in the Bible where it said the sun went backwards. The scientists told him he was out of his mind, but they got out the Book and read these words in 2 Kings: Hezekiah, on his death-bed, was visited by the prophet Isaiah who told him that he was not going to die. Hezekiah asked for a sign as proof. Isaiah said Do you want the sun to go ahead 10 degrees? Hezekiah said, It is nothing for the sun to go ahead 10 degrees, but let the shadow return backward 10 degrees. Isaiah spoke to the Lord and the Lord brought the shadow ten degrees backward! Ten degrees is exactly 40 minutes! Twenty three hours and 20 minutes in Joshua, plus 40 minutes in Second Kings make the missing day in the universe!

Isn't it amazing? Our God is rubbing their noses in His Truth! References:
Joshua 10:8 and 12,13
2 Kings 20:9-11


An Unlikely Story

Did you know that the space program is busy proving that what has been called myth in the Bible is true? Mr. Harold Hill, President of the Curtis Engine Company in Baltimore Maryland and a consultant in the space program, relates the following development:

A quick visit to a Web site shows that, if this is the same Curtis Engine Company, the company specializes in power generation equipment. It is not obvious to me what power generation has to do with satellite orbits.

A reason I'm dubious of this story already is based on a child's game. The game consists of whispering a phrase to the person standing beside you. That person then whispers what she heard to the person beside her, and so forth around the room. As anybody who has ever played this game can attest, after the phrase has gone around the room, it is often quite different than what started.

For that reason, I'm dubious of any such claims of something happening in NASA, unless it is quite clear from whom the story comes. Most government agencies now employ a large number of consultants; consultants at my place of employment range from janitors to research scientists. A consultant for NASA need not know anything about spacecraft navigation.

That's why I find more plausible the notion that a minor adjustment of a few seconds got blown way out of proportion.

I think one of the most amazing things that God has for us today happened recently to our astronauts and space scientists at Green Belt, Maryland. They were checking the position of the sun, moon, and planets out in space where they would be 100 years and 1000 years from now.. We have to know this so we won't send a satellite, up and have it bump into something later on during its orbits. We have to lay out the orbits in terms of the life of the satellite, and where the planets will be so the whole thing will not bog down..

I don't find this plausible. Most satellites are in so-called Low Earth Orbits, meaning they orbit only a few hundred miles up (this includes all of the Mercury and Gemini flights and the Space Shuttle). The primary factor affecting their orbits is the height of the Earth's atmosphere, the height of which is affected by slight changes in the Sun's brightness. These changes are poorly understood. The notion that we could predict the orbit of most satellites even 100 years into the future is doubtful.

Even if we could, the position of the Sun, Moon, and planets would have little effect. Only the Sun and the Moon could exert a potentially important effect on the orbits of satellites, even this effect is quite tiny compared to the much larger effect of the Earth, and the effect is due only to their gravity. Distances between objects in space are so vast that the possibility of bumping into anything is remote.

Interplanetary spacecraft, those designed to travel to another planet, don't even worry about bumping into anything. Rather a basic course is plotted. For a typical interplanetary mission, large sections of the mission need not worry about most of the planets or the Moon, they are simply too far away, too little, and too slowly moving to exert an influence. After the mission is underway, the position of the spacecraft is compared to where it should be. Any tiny effect that results from neglecting the effect of the planets is then changed in scheduled course corrections. Typically these course corrections amount to changing the position of the spacecraft by a kilometer or so, over a journey of millions of kilometers.

They ran the computer measurement back and forth over the centuries and it came to a halt. The computer stopped and put up a red signal, which meant that there was something wrong either with the information fed into it or with the results as compared to the standards. They called in the service department to check it out and they said what's wrong?

Well they found there is a day missing in space in elapsed time.

First, the Earth's rotation---which is what determines the day---is unconnected to its position or the position of any other planets. In other words, if you are trying to model where the planets will be in the future, you don't need to know what day it is on the Earth.

(Now if you are trying to predict a solar or lunar eclipse, you do need to know what time it is on the Earth, but even there, you only care about the position of the Sun and Moon, the other planets remain irrelevant.)

Another problem with this story is that it doesn't jibe with how computer models work. Computer models use the known natural laws to predict what will happen or model what has happened. In order for a computer program to find a missing day, the computer program would have to compare a prediction for the number of days in the past with some estimate based on previous calendars. This is not easy! There is considerable uncertainty in figuring out calendars from the past. (For more detail, see the Calendar FAQ.) Even determining the year in which Jesus was born is difficult, to say nothing of what day people, hundreds of years before Jesus, thought it was.

There's a more general problem, too. The Earth is rotating (that's what causes a day). In order to stop the Earth from rotating, a force would have to be applied. (Think of a merry-to-round. It stops rotating because of the friction in the bearings.) Let's suppose that we can come up with a force that stops the Earth from rotating. What about the atmosphere? The atmosphere is also rotating. The atmosphere would continue rotating, until the friction between the air and land slowed it. That means that there should have been hundreds to thousand mile per hour winds if the Earth stopped rotating. People everywhere in the world would have noticed! There should be records of such an event, say, in Chinese documents.

What kind of force would be required to stop the Earth from rotating? The Earth is a pretty large object, rotating at a quite nice clip. It would take a large force to stop its rotation. The only kind of natural force I can imagine that would stop the Earth's rotation and stop it in less than a day, would a massive impact. Such an impact would make the thing that wiped out the dinosaurs look like child's play. If such an impact happened, we have to ask, why are we still here? Of course, this is also the impact to stop the Earth's rotation. Getting it started again would require another massive impact.

They scratched their heads and tore their hair. There was no answer. Finally, a Christian man on the team said, You know, one time I was in Sunday school and they talked about the sun standing still. While they didn't believe him,they didn't have an answer either, so they said, Show us. He got a Bible and went back to the book of Joshua where they found a pretty ridiculous statement for any one with common sense.

There they found the Lord saying to Joshua, Fear them not, I have delivered them into thy hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee. Joshua was concerned because he was surrounded by the enemy and if darkness fell they would overpower them. So Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still! That's right---The sun stood still and the moon stayed---and hasted not to go down about a whole day!

The astronauts and scientists said, There is the missing day! They checked the computers going back into the time it was written and found it was close but not close enough. The elapsed time that was missing back in Joshua's day was 23 hours and 20 minutes---not a whole day. They read the Bible and there it was about (approximately) a day.

These little words in the Bible are important, but they were still in trouble because if you cannot account for 40 minutes you'll still be in trouble 1000 years from now. Forty minutes had to be found because it can be multiplied many times over in orbits.

As the Christian employee thought about it, remembered somewhere in the Bible where it said the sun went backwards. The scientists told him he was out of his mind, but they got out the Book and read these words in 2 Kings: Hezekiah, on his death-bed, was visited by the prophet Isaiah who told him that he was not going to die. Hezekiah asked for a sign as proof. Isaiah said Do you want the sun to go ahead 10 degrees? Hezekiah said, It is nothing for the sun to go ahead 10 degrees, but let the shadow return backward 10 degrees. Isaiah spoke to the Lord and the Lord brought the shadow ten degrees backward! Ten degrees is exactly 40 minutes! Twenty three hours and 20 minutes in Joshua, plus 40 minutes in Second Kings make the missing day in the universe!

My copy of the KJV Bible, Genesis 1:14 describes the Sun and Moon as follows:

[L]ights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years;

(Actually, the Sun and Moon are not mentioned explicitly, only a greater light to rule the day and a lesser light to rule the night.) In other words, the objects in the sky are only for telling time. The Sun is not described as a massive ball of gas shining because of nuclear fusion reactions in its core. It is simply a light in the sky for telling time. Even the firmament of the heaven or the sky is described earlier in Genesis as an object (really good translations point out that the firmament was thought to be a solid object, viz. the flood gates or windows of heavens described in the story of Noah) that divides the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.

Isn't it amazing? Our God is rubbing their noses in His Truth!

On a philosophical basis, one has to wonder about this story, too. If the Sun is simply a big light moving around on the firmament, then the notion of it stopping is no big deal. We know the Sun is not simply a big light moving on a firmament.

Science is a method for understanding the natural world. God is supposed to be supernatural. The notion that science is going to prove God's existence strikes me as bad science, probably miserable theology, and weak faith.


T. Joseph W. Lazio
Last modified: Mon Jun 4 20:00:16 2001