Astronauts, Space, and Faith

American Minute with Bill Federer

On JULY 20, 1969, Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, stating:

“One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Neil Armstrong, along with Colonel Buzz Aldrin, landed their lunar module, the “Eagle,” and spent a total of 21 hours and 37 minutes on the moon’s surface before redocking with the command ship “Columbia.”

On JULY 20, 1989, Guideposts Magazine published the story, “A Meal on the Moon-A little-known fact about the Apollo 11 moon landing”:

“Forty years ago, on JULY 20, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin climbed out of the lunar module Eagle and took their historic first steps on the moon.

Several months later Buzz Aldrin told GUIDEPOSTS about a little-known ‘first’ that also took place that day.

Before the lift-off, Aldrin was looking for a way to honor God’s presence in the Apollo 11 space mission. He talked about this with his minister, Dean Woodruff of Webster Presbyterian Church in Houston.

When in their discussions the Christian sacrament of communion was mentioned, a plan emerged.

Two Sundays before the moon shot, Aldrin participated in a small, private communion service at Webster Presbyterian, after which Dean Woodruff broke off a corner of the communion bread and gave it to Aldrin along with a tiny chalice and some wine.

Aldrin sealed these in plastic packets and safely stowed them in his personal preference kit (each astronaut was allowed to take a few personal items with him).

JULY 20, 1969, was a Sunday. At 3:17 p.m. (Houston time) the Eagle touched down. Aldrin took out the communion elements from their flight packets and put them on a small table in front of the abort guidance-system computer.

Then he called Houston, and asked for a few moments of silence.

In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, he poured the wine, watching it curl gracefully up the side of the chalice.

From a slip of paper he read the biblical passage, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5, Revised Standard Version).

And then he took communion.”

In 1968, Astronaut Frank Borman had been Commander of Apollo 8, the first mission to fly around the moon. Looking down on the earth from 250,000 miles away, Borman radioed back a message, quoting Genesis One:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Speaking live from orbiting the moon on December 24, 1968, Frank Borman stated:

“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.”

Later Frank Borman explained:

“I had an enormous feeling that there had to be a power greater than any of us-that there was a God, that there was indeed a beginning.”

In 1971, Astronaut James Irwin became the 8th person to walk on the moon during the Apollo 15 Mission. He later became an evangelical minister and spoke of his experience on the lunar mission:

“I felt the power of God as I’d never felt it before.”

On April 21, 1972, Astronauts Charles Duke and John Young also explored the moon’s surface during Apollo 16’s mission to the rugged highlands of the moon’s Descartes region.

Astronaut Charles Duke spoke at a Prayer Rally, June 22, 1996, during the Texas State Republican Convention in San Antonio. His remarks are printed in the book, Charles Duke: Moonwalker (Rose Petal Press, 2nd edition, 2011, p. 256-261):

“I have been before kings and prime ministers, junta leaders and dictators, businessmen and beggars, rich and poor, black and white…

One of the most touching times was in the office of one of the cabinet ministers in Israel…After the introduction I was asked to share my walk on the moon with the Israeli minister.

‘Mr. Minister,’ I began, ‘I was able to look back at the earth from the moon and hold up my hand and underneath this hand was the earth. The thought occurred to me that underneath my hand were four billion people. I couldn’t see Europe, America, the Middle East.

I couldn’t see blacks or whites, Jews or Orientals, just spaceship earth. I realized we needed to learn to love one another, and I believed that with that love and our technical expertise, we could solve all of mankind’s problems…’

The promises of the Bible are true and, I believe, speak the truth in every area – whether it be in spiritual matters, nutrition, history, or even science. In 1972 aboard Apollo 16, I saw with my own eyes what is written in the Scriptures.

In Isaiah 40:22 it says ‘It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth.” And in Job 26:7, it is written ‘He hangeth the earth upon nothing.’ Who told Isaiah that the earth was a circle?…And how did the writer of Job know that the hung upon nothing?…

This is the Lord I love and serve. This is the Lord who transformed by life. This is the Lord who transformed my marriage.

I used to say I could live ten thousand years and never have an experience as thrilling as walking on the moon. But the excitement and satisfaction of that walk doesn’t begin to compare with my walk with Jesus, a walk that lasts forever.

I thought Apollo 16 would be my crowning glory, but the crown that Jesus gives will not tarnish or fade away. His crown will last throughout all eternity.

Not everyone has the opportunity to walk on the moon, but everybody has the opportunity to walk with the Son. It costs billions of dollars to send someone to the moon, but walking with Jesus is free, the Gift of God. ‘For by Grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.’

You don’t need to go to the moon to find God. I didn’t find God in space – I found him in the front seat of my car on Highway 46 in New Braunfels, Texas, when I opened my heart to Jesus. And my life hasn’t been the same since.

Now I can truly look up at the moon and the stars and with the prophets of old exclaim, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.'”

On October 29, 1998, at age 77, Astronaut John Glenn was aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest person to go into space.

This was 36 years after he had become the first American to orbit the earth in 1962.

Observing the heavens and earth from his window, John Glenn stated:

“To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible. It just strengthens my faith.”

The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.

Still time to order Bill Federer’s latest book: Prayers & Presidents – Inspiring Faith from Leaders of the Past Invite Bill Federer to speak: 1-888-USA-WORD