Remembering Apollo 11

Remembering Apollo 11

Forty years ago this July 20, two astronauts aboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft landed on the surface of the Moon. It was “a small step” for a man to move from the spacecraft to the surface, but “a giant leap for mankind” to carry off such a monumental mission.

Two particular incidents occurred during the years of the Apollo program that gave me the impression many Christians were involved in America’s missions to the Moon. Apollo 8, the first manned mission where the spacecraft orbited the Moon and then returned to Earth, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve of 1968. In a live television broadcast, the three astronauts—Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders—spoke of “the vast loneliness” of space compared to life we enjoy on Earth. They ended by taking turns reading from the creation story in Genesis 1–2.

Then on Sunday, July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 became the first manned mission to land on the Moon, as Michael Collins remained in the command module orbiting the Moon, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin actually walked on its tranquil surface. What few people may know is that Aldrin, an elder of a Presbyterian church in Houston, had brought along a small Communion kit.

The morning of July 20, he radioed, “Houston, this is Eagle. This is the LM [lunar module] pilot speaking. I would like to invite each person listening in, whoever or wherever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the last few hours, and give thanks in his own individual way.” Privately, he took Communion and read from Scripture, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.” Reflecting on this event sometime later, he said, “It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the Moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the Communion elements.”

In the years to come it’s not totally unlikely we will see humans walk on the surface of Mars, perhaps providing further opportunity to reflect on our Creator. If the past is any predictor, we will discover abundant new evidence for the Bible’s truth and more reasons to believe in the God Scripture reveals.