As the United States of America celebrates the 50th anniversary of our historic moon landing, we are looking at the two men at the heart of that mission: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. While we know who took the first steps onto the lunar surface and who planted the flag, a little known fact is that Aldrin was the first man to celebrate religious sacrament while outside our planet’s atmosphere.
An ordained Presbyterian elder, Aldrin believed that the space expedition transcended the contributions of man. Beyond the computers and numbers and rockets, the decision to explore space and land on the moon was also guided by a Holy hand. This is why he – along with Webster Presbyterian Pastor Dean Woodruff – decided to celebrate the contributions of God following touchdown.
“I wondered if it might be possible to take communion on the moon,” Aldrin wrote in a piece for Guideposts, “symbolizing the thought that God was revealing Himself there, too, as man reached out into the universe. For there are many of us in the NASA program who do trust that what we are doing is part of God’s eternal plan for man.”
Aldrin revealed that every astronaut is allowed to take a “personal preference kit” with them on their travels, and his included Holy Communion. A small, plastic-wrapped wafer, some wine, and a little silver chalice provided by Woodruff and the Presbyterian church were included in his kit, along with a notecard upon which John 15:5 was written.
“Houston, this is Eagle. This is the LM Pilot speaking,” Aldrin called back to Earth. “I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way.”
Buzz Aldrin’s handwritten notes from this day in 1969, when he and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. pic.twitter.com/IyJjC0ruqN
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 20, 2018
This was when he silently read from his notecard, and took communion.
“I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me,” he wrote later. “In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements.”
Fox News reports that Aldrin could not read the verse aloud because an atheist had previously sued following the reading of 10 passages from the Book of Genesis on the Apollo 8 mission. While the lawsuit was inevitably dropped, NASA was wary about allowing public religious declarations on this mission. If anything, they probably didn’t want anything to tarnish the history that was being made, as atheists are wont to do.
But on his way back to Earth, the astronaut did publicly read from another passage scrawled upon his handy notecard. Psalm 8: 3-4 from the Old Testament: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou has ordained; What is man that thou art mindful of him? And the Son of Man, that thou visitest Him?”
Even in 2019, Aldrin is still advancing the cause of space travel, and supporting President Donald Trump! On Friday, he tweeted “Just had an excellent meeting with President Donald Trump! We discussed America’s future in space, ways to address space challenges, and the need to keep exploring beyond the horizon. Keep America Great in Space!!”
Just had an excellent meeting with President Donald Trump! We discussed America’s future in space, ways to address space challenges, and the need to keep exploring beyond the horizon. Keep America Great in Space!! #Apollo50 #ApolloXI https://t.co/zv2LgoCheD
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) July 19, 2019
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