Edwin Aldrin, better known as Buzz Aldrin, turned 85 last January. If he can celebrate a few more birthdays he will be on track to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing on July 20th. Aldrin piloted the Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) to the surface of the moon and landed it at 20:18 UTC on July 20, 1969. Six hours later at 02:56 UTC on July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong and he stepped onto the surface of the moon.
Aldrin, an elder in the Webster Presbyterian Church, had decided to take a home communion kit with him on the flight to the lunar surface. While still in the LM he spoke these words over the radio contact with mission control.
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. (Listen to the recording here)
He then read a portion of the Bible to himself, ate a small piece of bread, and drank a tiny chalice of wine as a brief ceremony known as communion. Webster Presbyterian Church in Webster, Texas has the chalice used for communion on the Moon, and commemorates the event annually on the Sunday closest to July 20 with what has come to be known as Lunar Communion Sunday.
Buzz Aldrin has lived an incredible life which has been described in his book Magnificent Desolation. It tells of moments of greatness like his contributions to the Apollo landing and his discovery of an Earth/Mars orbit called the Aldrin Cycler; but it also tells of times of depression, alcoholism, and marital struggle. Aldrin later stated that he has now had second thoughts about how he celebrated the moon landing.
Perhaps, if I had it to do over again, I would not choose to celebrate communion. 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. It was my hope that people would keep the whole event in their minds and see, beyond minor details and technical achievements, a deeper meaning -- a challenge, and the human need to explore whatever is above us, below us, or out there.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin is certainly an interesting and complex man. He has the capacity to inspire us to do great things and dream big. He has also learned to give thanks and live a grateful life. May he inspire us to do the same.
Huffington Post, The Moon Communion Of Buzz Aldrin That NASA Didn't Want To Broadcast; Posted: 07/19/2014 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/19/moon-communion-buzz-aldrin_n_5600648.html
Webster Presbyterian Church website; http://www.websterpresby.org/content.cfm?id=314
Wikipedia, Buzz Aldrin, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buzz_Aldrin