One Small ‘Sip’ for Man

This summer, NASA marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission in which, on July 20th 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon. During August, our family spent time in Florida where some of my extended family live. Every time we visit, I try and get to the Kennedy Space Centre where NASA fire their rockets into space. This year for the first time we were able to watch an actual rocket launch, an un-crewed vessel taking a GPS satellite into orbit. It was 6 miles away when it took off, and so we saw it before we heard it. It was an unforgettable experience to see this marvel of technology head up into the sky leaving a trail of fire and smoke. 

Whatever your thoughts about NASA and their achievements, it is hard not to be astonished that humans, working together, have been able to break the confines of our planet and move out into the unknown. This seems to demand the best of people – cooperation, excellence and courage – and it also inspires in the rest of us hope and awe and expands our vision of what is possible. 

Yuri Gagarin, a Russian astronaut and the first man in space, is rumoured to have said “I don’t see any God up here” while orbiting the planet. In fact, the quote was probably made up by communist politicians after the fact, but even if Gagarin did say it, the opposite has been true for many astronauts. Seeing the wonders, beauty and order of space has provoked in many people a deep reverence for a divine Creator.

Neil Armstrong’s fellow crew member Buzz Aldrin was a committed Christian. In his memoirs, Buzz Aldrin recounted how he celebrated communion on the moon: “I read a portion of John’s gospel. 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… the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements.” Some might think that what Buzz Aldrin did was bizarre. I think for a Christian it makes perfect sense. What better way to remember that the presence of God goes with us wherever we go (even to the moon!) than by remembering Jesus in the sacrament of the bread and wine, the mystery of his body and blood given for us to have life.