July 20, 1969: Moon Landing Anniversary
“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” For years the moon has been a source for romantic stories; something beautiful we would give to our lovers, if only we could. “What is it you want, Mary? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey, that’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon Mary.” (It’s a Wonderful Life)
Despite how close it seemed, it was completely out of our reach. Out of our reach, that is, until July 20, 1969; the day Neil Armstrong’s figure appeared on the television and he made history with those famous words.
Eight years previously, President Kennedy came before Congress with a bold plan: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
The task before the men of NASA was a difficult one; after all, they had only just gotten Alan Shepard into space, and that was only for 15 ½ minutes. Shepard hadn’t even orbited the earth; how could they get man on the moon before the decade was out? The long answer should be saved for another article (and the 2015 Festival this August), but the short answer is: lots of hard work.
Finally, after 20 manned flights spanning across Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, they had done it. They had reached the “Unreachable.”
While on the Lunar surface waiting to leave the Lunar Module, Buzz Aldrin, an Elder in his church, poured some wine into his church’s chalice, took out a wafer of bread, and partook of the first food and drink to have ever been taken on the moon’s surface: communion. Before taking communion, he pulled out a card he had written on and silently read, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.” (John 15:5) Not long after this, Buzz Aldrin left the spacecraft and delivered that hauntingly beautiful description of the lunar surface: “Magnificent Desolation.”
The exciting and perilous story of the moon landing is worth telling and remembering, but today, on the anniversary of the moon landing, let’s remember the most important thing that could ever come out of the space program: God’s Name being glorified.
The second verse written on Buzz Aldrin’s card is an appropriate one to end with:
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
Happy Anniversary, Apollo 11.