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February 3rd, 2010

A little-known fact about the Apollo 11 landing 40 years ago:

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.

[1] A Meal On The Moon, Guideposts Magazine, July1989

PHOTO: Buzz Aldrin