August 25, 2012 3:44 PM
RIP Neil Armstrong: a retrospective
"One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Who could ever forget the words of Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon at 9:56pm (Houston time) July 20, 1969, as he poetically sealed this historic event.
What many people don't know is that moments before, he and Buzz Aldrin had shared communion aboard Apollo 11. Eric Metaxas tells the story::
Communion on the Moon: July 20th, 1969
by Eric Metaxas
Forty years ago two human beings changed history by walking on the surface of the moon. But what happened before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong exited the Lunar Module is perhaps even more amazing, if only because so few people know about it. I'm talking about the fact that Buzz Aldrin took communion on the surface of the moon. Some months after his return, he wrote about it in Guideposts magazine.
And a few years ago I had the privilege of meeting him myself. I asked him about it and he confirmed the story to me, and I wrote about in my book - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask).
The background to the story is that Aldrin was an elder at his Presbyterian Church in Texas during this period in his life, and knowing that he would soon be doing something unprecedented in human history, he felt he should mark the occasion somehow, and he asked his minister to help him. And so the minister 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. Here is his own account of what happened:
"In the radio blackout, 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.
Then I read the Scripture, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.... Apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute [they] had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O'Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. I agreed reluctantly.
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.
And of course, it's interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon - and Who, in the immortal words of Dante, is Himself the "Love that moves the Sun and other stars."
Other revealing Neil Armstrong quotes from the Apollo 11 mission:
- It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
- Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.
- Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.
- I was elated, ecstatic and extremely surprised that we were successful.
On his work:
- As a boy, because I was born and raised in Ohio, about 60 miles north of Dayton, the legends of the Wrights have been in my memories as long as I can remember.
- I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.
- Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying.
- I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work.
And on his respect for NASA - teamwork, vision and accomplishment:
- I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.
- Well, I think we tried very hard not to be overconfident, because when you get overconfident, that's when something snaps up and bites you.
- The important achievement of Apollo was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that and our opportunities are unlimited.
- I fully expected that, by the end of the century, we would have achieved substantially more than we actually did.
Neil Armstrong blasts Obama's plan for NASA
Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, blasted Obama's decision to cancel NASA's manned mission to the moon.Apollo 11 moon landing mission in July 1969, criticized what he billed as an air of secrecy that preceded Obama's February announcement which cancelled NASA's Constellation program aiming for the moon. That plan, he told a Senate subcommittee, was a surprise to many among NASA, academia and the military.
"A plan that was invisible to so many was likely contrived by a very small group in secret who persuaded the President that this was a unique opportunity to put his stamp on a new and innovative program," Armstrong, 79, said in a statement to a Senate subcommittee reviewing NASA's new space plan. "I believe the President was poorly advised."
The United States is risking losing its role as a leader in space exploration with its new plan, Armstrong said, adding that he was concerned with the looming gap in American human spaceflight.
"Other nations will surely step in where we have faltered," Armstrong said.
Read more at Christian Science Monitor
Neil Armstrong Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Mission, As He Accepted the Congressional Gold Medal July 21, 2009