“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.”
— Apollo astronaut “Buzz” Aldrin
It is more than a curiosity, I think, that the first action committed by human beings on the Moon, aside from operational necessities, was the receiving of the sacrament of Holy Communion by astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin:
“And so [his] pastor consecrated a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine. And Buzz Aldrin took them with him out of the Earth’s orbit and on to the surface of the moon. He and Armstrong had only been on the lunar surface for a few minutes when Aldrin made the following public statement:
“‘This is the LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.’
“He then ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse from the Gospel of John, and he took communion.”
Aldrin had originally intended to broadcast the moment to the United States and the world, but NASA – then embroiled in a legal battle with the militant atheist, Madelyn Murray O’Hare, over the Apollo 8 astronauts’ Christmas Eve message from lunar orbit, when they read from the Book of Genesis, and closed with “good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth” – requested that he refrain.
Still, as the article points out, his actions, and those of his colleagues on Apollo 8, serve as proof positive that Americans still had a common, Christian culture, just 50 years ago. It is also, I would add, proof positive that scientific and technological accomplishment is not at odds with Christian faith: that faith and reason are not, or at any rate need not be, in enmity with one another.
To quote the linked article once again:
“It is fascinating to look back and realize that a mere fifty years ago, America still had a common culture. Her preeminent scientific explorers took the first opportunity when orbiting in space and setting foot on the Moon to glorify the Creator, to acknowledge Him, and to commemorate His sacrifice for mankind. They recognized that despite man’s great accomplishments, which they themselves were spearheading, men should stand in humility and awe at the reality of the Creator.
“A half-century on, the intellectual descendants of the angry atheist who sued NASA over the astronauts’ reading of Scripture on Christmas Eve have triumphed in many ways. But while they can trash the present, they cannot rewrite history—and the simple fact is that the first acts of American astronauts in space and on the Moon were the acknowledgement of God’s infinite goodness and the magnificence of his Creation.”
Amen. Alleluia! Thanks be to God, the Maker of Heaven and earth.