SALT LAKE CITY — Astronaut Buzz Aldrin took communion on the moon, an experience NASA hasn’t been all that open about sharing.
Once the lunar module landed in the Sea of Tranquility, Aldrin called back to Earth to inform everyone that they deserved a moment to think about what just happened, according to NBC News.
- “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.”
Then, Aldrin, who was an elder at the Webster Presbyterian Church in Webster, Texas, turned off his radio, opened the containers of bread and wine that he brought with him and read from the Gospel of John.
- “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. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements,” Aldrin told Guideposts magazine.
Before he took communion, he read John 15:5.
“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,” he said.
What happened next: Aldrin wanted the experience to be shared on the live broadcast with the rest of his comments, but NASA discouraged the idea, according to The Huffington Post.
See, at the time, NASA was fighting a lawsuit with activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, an atheist, Huffington Post reports.
- “She sued them over the public reading of Genesis by the crew of Apollo 8, citing the status of astronauts as government employees and the separation of church and state to support her case,” according to The Huffington Post.
Aldrin later reflected in his book ”Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home From the Moon” that he wished he had found a more universal way to unite the nation after the arrival on the moon.
- “Perhaps if I had it to do over again, I would not choose to celebrate communion,” he wrote. “Although it was a deeply meaningful experience for me, it was a Christian sacrament, and we had come to the moon in the name of all mankind — be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, agnostics, or atheists. But at the time I could think of no better way to acknowledge the enormity of the Apollo 11 experience than by giving thanks to God.”
Years later: Other astronauts experience religious moments in space, according to History.com. Three Catholic astronauts took Holy Communion on board the Endeavor, while Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon said the Jewish Shabbat Kiddush prayer while in space, too.