Communion taken on first moon landing
With the death of Neil Armstrong as the first man on the moon Buzz Aldrin represents the only living memory of participating in that historic landing. During the radio blackout he did a remarkable thing.
by Bill Carrell
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to walk on the moon in the Apollo 11 space mission. Michael Collins third member of the group, was in charge of the command module, essential for their return to earth, which circled the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin landed.
The moon lander touched down at 3:17 Eastern Standard Time, Sunday, July 20, 1969.
Aldrin had brought with him a tiny communion kit, given him by his church, that had a silver chalice and wine vial about the size of the tip of his finger. During the morning he radioed, "Houston, this is Eagle. This is the LM pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. 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 to give thanks in his own individual way."
"In the radio blackout," he wrote later, "I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup.
'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.'
Then I read the Scripture, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.' I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute Deke Slayton had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O'Hare [see Footnote - Ed.], the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas.
I agreed reluctantly..." "Eagle's metal body creaked. I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. 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."
On December 24, 1968, in what was the most watched television broadcast at the time, the crew of Apollo 8 read in turn from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the moon. Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman recited verses 1 through 10, using the King James Version text.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair, an atheist, responded by suing the United States government, alleging violations of the First Amendment.The suit was dismissed by the Supreme Court due to lack of jurisdiction.
Transcript of Apollo 8 readings
"We are now approaching lunar sunrise and, for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
"And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
"And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called He Seas: and God saw that it was good.
And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."