"Anyone who does this has to be cool to work for."
If you look closely at the photo that accompanies NASA's press release about the new director of the Goddard Space Flight Center, you'll see something both curious and delightful — that she's taking her oath not on the Bible, or any other conventional holy book, but on a copy of Carl Sagan's 1994 "Pale Blue Dot."
Indeed, as NASA Watch's Keith Cowing spotted following Dr. Makenzie Lystrup's swearing in last Friday, the first woman ever to lead the Maryland space center marked the occasion with a nod to that other star enthusiast, the late Sagan.
"Normally I just pass on these staged pics," Cowing wrote. "But people have noticed something unusual about this photo."
Dr. Makenzie Lystrup getting sworn in as Director of @NASAGoddard Space Flight Center using Carl Sagan's 'Pale Blue Dot' is just everything. 😍 pic.twitter.com/VClQGtf4oU
— Dr. Jessie Christiansen (@aussiastronomer) April 6, 2023
Do What You Will
While Lystrup's choice of oath-taking literature is "unusual," it's definitely allowed by law thanks to our good ole' separation of church and state, and there's a long tradition of political statement-making via swearing in books.
From Dr. Suess to a Superman comic and any number of non-Christian religious texts, American political figures have for centuries been putting their beliefs on display by being sworn into office on books other than the Bible.
That said, this appears to be the first time someone's been sworn in on a Sagan book, and we're with Cowing when it comes to admiring Lystrup's oath book — which NASA, interestingly enough, chose not to mention in its own blog post.
"Why do I suddenly get the urge to apply for a job over in Maryland at Goddard?" quipped Cowing, himself a former NASA employee. "Anyone who does this has to be cool to work for."
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