As we write our calendar reads July 20, 2019—fifty years to the day after humans first set foot on our lunar companion during the Apollo 11 program. This is a day when active recall dominates our consciousness for a few hours. The overpowering incredible technological human achievement was fraught with equally incredible risks. President Kennedy’s May 25, 1961 speech to Congress stated a goal of “…landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” The last seven words may be more technologically challenging than the previous six.
My grandfather, born in 1880, proclaimed that it would not be God’s will for man to break loose from the earth and visit the moon. His death in 1960, however, was sandwiched between the first earth orbital flight of a space vehicle in 1957, and Russian and American astronauts’ manned orbital flights in 1961 and 1962. The Moon visit by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins on July 20, 1969 was obviously “permitted” by the God of Creation who implanted the technical ability in humans to accomplish the feat.
On July 20, 1969 I was traveling with an uncle and cousin in New Mexico during the evening. We were hoping to rent a motel room to join the estimated 600 million earth residents who watched the historic events on live television. We were successful, arriving in our room sometime after 9:39 PM MDT when the Eagle’s hatch was opened. My memory is entering the motel room to a blinking television screen displaying astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the Moon’s surface. A few feet away was the Eagle Landing Craft. Micheal Collins was circling above them in the Command Module. It was a special, unforgettable moment!
Armstrong died in 2012. Aldrin and Collins are still alive and able to recount their experiences clear-mindedly. All three Apollo 11 astronauts were born in 1930.
Twenty-four astronauts have left the confines of Earth and have viewed the Earth from the Moon, 240,000 miles distant. Twelve of those astronauts descended to the surface and walked on it. They experienced an emotional high called the overview effect, defined as a cognitive shift in awareness in which the viewer is overwhelmed by a vision of the Earth from outer space.
The most touching expression of the overview effect may have been experienced by US moon astronauts seven months before Apollo 11. On Christmas Eve 1968 Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders, while in moon orbit, took turns reading the first ten verses of Genesis 1 while transmitting images of Earth from space on live television.
On this anniversary of man’s first moon walk, we are thankful that our space program has enabled Earth residents to see a portion of God’s glory in creation.