NASA allowed an astronaut to take a small bag of personal items with him on such flights, and amongst his own effects Aldrin, an elder in his Presbyterian church back home in Texas, packed a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine consecrated by his pastor. A few minutes after he and Armstrong landed on the lunar surface, Aldrin, pilot of the Lunar Module, radioed back to Mission Control in Houston, with this personal message: “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.”
As NASA officials, nervous about the backlash over religious expression by the astronaut, blacked out the radio communication with the rest of the world, Aldrin proceeded with his own personal observance, reading aloud the words of Christ from the Gospel of John: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Then in the 250,000 miles of silence between him and Earth, Aldrin recalled later in a Guideposts magazine article, he observed the solemn Christian tradition that has connected millions of Christians over the past 2,000 years to their Savior. Opening the package containing the emblems of Christ’s body and blood, “I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine,” wrote Aldrin. “I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility.” He added that “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.”
The young astronaut had intended to share the special moment with the entire world, but officials at Mission Control had second thoughts and “requested that I not do this,” recalled Aldrin. “NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. I agreed reluctantly.”
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