For some time, I’ve been a student of the history of America’s space program. I am fascinated by the early, heady days of the 1960s and early 1970s, when we reached out to the moon and actually managed to land men there and bring them back home safely.
One of the most fascinating journeys of project Apollo was the Christmas voyage of Apollo 8. This mission accomplished something never before even attempted: it was the first time men had flown to the moon and achieved an orbit around the moon. This was an incredibly brave and gutsy thing to try, and the three astronauts aboard Apollo 8, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, were voted Time Magazine’s Men of the Year in 1968.
I’m impressed, at times, when reading these histories, at the cultural differences between that time and our own. One good example of this is the way the Apollo 8 astronauts read some text from Genesis 1 back to earth on Christmas Eve. You can give it a listen at the YouTube below:
Reportedly, Dr. Thomas Paine, NASA administrator, said that the mission was “a triumph of the squares, the guys with computers and slide rules who read the Bible on Christmas Eve.” Heh
This wasn’t the only example of religious observance in space. Commander Frank Borman of the aforementioned Apollo 8 mission was also a lay-reader at his church and was scheduled that weekend to read prayers in the service, so, during the third of ten orbits around the moon, the following occurred:
During the third pass, Borman read a small prayer for his church, as he was meant to lay read during the Midnight service at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church near Seabrook, Texas, but due to the Apollo 8 flight was unable. A fellow parishioner and engineer at Mission Control, Rod Rose, suggested that Borman read the prayer which could be recorded and then replayed during the service.
In addition, Buzz Aldrin, on the historic Apollo 11 mission, took communion in the lunar module after it landed in the Sea of Tranquility on the moon.
I think that’s pretty cool.