July 20, 1969 was the day that the Apollo 11 mission successfully placed two men on the moon: Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.
While Neil rightly gets much of the attention for being the first to set foot on the moon, with his famous, but accidentally misspoken phrase, “This is one small step for [a] man, but one giant leap for mankind,” Buzz Aldrin is the one I look up to the most.
A Committed Christian
At the time when Buzz Aldrin went on the Apollo 11 mission, he wasn’t only an astronaut, he was an elder at his church: Webster Presbyterian Church in Webster, Texas.
Communion on the Moon
In total, Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours on the surface of the moon, much of which was televised and was, unsurprisingly, the most-watched television event of that year.
During their time on the moon, Buzz Aldrin asked for a moment of silence, so he could celebrate in his own way: by reading some passages from the Bible and taking Holy Communion.
The passages he had written down on a piece of paper to read on the moon were John 15:5, where Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing,” and Psalm 8:3-4: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
Here’s how History.com recounts the events in their article, “Buzz Aldrin Took Holy Communion on the Moon. NASA Kept it Quiet”:
As the men prepared for the next phase of their mission, Aldrin got on the comm system and spoke to the ground crew back on Earth. “I would like to request a few moments of silence,” he said.
Then he reached for the wine and bread he’d brought to space—the first foods ever poured or eaten on the moon. “I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup,” he later wrote. Then, Aldrin read some scripture and ate. Armstrong looked on quietly but did not participate.
Buzz’s Big Take-Away
In a video message which was broadcast back to Earth from the spacecraft as they made their way back from the moon, Aldrin recited the passage from Psalm 8:3-4.
Here is the video of that message. He begins reading the Psalm at 2:49.
Punching Conspiracy Theorists
There are many people who believe the moon landing never actually happened and is part of a conspiracy on the part of the United States government to show their supremacy over the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
One version of this conspiracy theory says that director Stanley Kubrick filmed the whole thing on a soundstage, and then was so upset by what he had been forced to do, that he hid a confession in a later film: The Shining. In Stephen King’s novel, on which the film was based, the room which is the epicenter of the bad vibes in the hotel is Room 217, but in his film adaption of the novel, Kubrick changed the room number to Room 237, supposedly because the moon is roughly 237,000 miles from Earth.
You can read a list of moon landing conspiracy theories here, but most have been thoroughly disproven.
In 2002, Buzz Aldrin was ambushed by Bart Sibrel outside of a hotel in Los Angeles. Bart called Buzz “a coward and a liar and a…”. He didn’t get to finish his sentence, because Buzz, then 72 years old, punched Bart in the face. Fortunately someone was recording; here’s the video:
While this wasn’t Buzz’s finest moment, nor his most Christian response, it’s easy to understand Buzz’s frustration. It reminds me of the time when Paul the Apostle cast out a demon from a girl in Philippi after becoming “greatly annoyed” with her antics. (Acts 16:18)
On the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, I’m impressed with Buzz Aldrin, who was himself, uncompromisingly, as a Christian, on the world’s biggest stage. In our current age, all of us have a platform; are you using your platform to be an ambassador for Christ? May God give us the courage and wisdom to do so, and to do it well.