Many remember the summer day in 1969, when the tiny Lunar Module (LM) attached to Apollo 11 separated from the spacecraft and took two astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, gently down to the surface of the moon. Both men soon left the LM and walked on the lunar surface, collecting space rocks.
But few recall what happened before they opened the door and stepped out.
Aldrin was an elder at his Presbyterian Church in Texas. Knowing he would soon do something unprecedented in human history, he felt he should mark the occasion and asked his pastor for help. The pastor consecrated a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine, and Buzz took them with him to the moon.
He and Armstrong had only been on the lunar surface a few minutes when Aldrin made the following public statement to Mission Control at Cape Kennedy: "This is the LM pilot. 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." He then ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse from the Gospel of John, and he took communion. Here is his own account of what happened:
"In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the tiny chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.' I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility . It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the elements of Communion."