Flashback: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Recalls Taking Communion on the Moon

July 22, 2014 - 4:18 PM

Communion is viewed as one of the most important sacraments in the Christian faith, so it is not surprising to hear about someone taking it. It is, however, unusual to hear about a Christian taking communion nearly 240,000 miles away.

July 20 marked the 45th anniversary of the first lunar landing in human history when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. Armstrong is remembered by his famous "that's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Aldrin is not so much recognized for one publicized action, but rather one that the U.S. government and NASA tried to cover up because of a previous lawsuit related to the Apollo 8 reading of Genesis.

Before Aldrin and Armstrong took to the moon surface, Buzz decided to take communion; an event that he had wanted to do months before the launch.

Excerpt from a Guidepost interview from October 1970 courtesy of Eric Metaxas:

One day while I was at Cape Kennedy working with the sophisticated tools of the space effort, it occurred to me that these tools were the typical elements of life today.  I wondered if it might be possible to take communion on the moon, symbolizing the thought that God was revealing Himself there too, as man reached out into the universe.  For there are many of us in the NASA program who do trust that what we are doing is part of God's eternal plan for man.

I spoke with [Pastor Dean Woodruff] about the idea as soon as I returned home, and he was enthusiastic.

"I could carry the bread in a plastic packet, the way regular inflight food is wrapped.  And the wine also-there will be just enough gravity on the moon for liquid to pour.  I'll be able to drink normally from a cup.  Dean, I wonder if you could look around for a little chalice that I could take with me as coming from the church?"

The next week Dean showed me a graceful silver cup.  I hefted it and was pleased to find that it was light enough to take along.  Each astronaut is allowed a few personal items on a flight; the wine chalice would be in my personal-preference kit.

Then while on the moon surface, Aldrin finally took communion after the 240,000 mile journey:

Now Neil and I were sitting inside Eagle, while Mike circled in lunar orbit unseen in the black sky above us.  In a little while after our scheduled meal period, Neil would give the signal to step down the ladder onto the powdery surface of the moon.  Now was the moment for communion.

So I unstowed the elements in their flight packets.  I put them and the scripture reading on the little table in front of the abort guidance system computer.

Then I called back to Houston.

"Houston, this is Eagle.  This is the LM Pilot speaking.  I would like to request a few moments of silence.  I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to invite each person listening, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way."

....

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.

And so, just before I partook of the elements, I read the words, which I had chosen to indicate our trust that as man probes into space we are in fact acting in Christ.

I sensed especially strongly my unity with our church back home, and with the Church everywhere.

I 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).