Half a century ago to the day, on July 20, 1969, NASA’s Apollo 11 mission landed the first humans on the Moon, ending the Space Race with the Soviet Union. Neil Armstrong became a worldwide celebrity overnight after stepping foot on the lunar surface and delivering his “one small step” speech to the millions watching live at home. Just shy of 20 minutes later, Buzz Aldrin emerged from the lunar module Eagle and the pair spent two and a quarter hours collecting materials to bring back to Earth.
During his time alone, Mr Aldrin called back to Mission Control to inform everyone that they deserved a moment to think about what they had just achieved.
He said: “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.”
Then Aldrin, who was an elder at the Webster Presbyterian Church, admitted he had snuck a small bottle of consecrated wine and a piece of bread on board.
He then turned off his radio and performed a communion in a touching gesture to his faith.
Buzz Aldrin had an admission over the Moon landing
The Apollo 11 astronauts – Buzz Aldrin,Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins
The very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements
He told Guideposts magazine in 1970: “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.
“It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements.”
Before he took Communion, he read John 15:5 to Mission Control.
He said: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.”
Aldrin asked for the experienced that would follow to be shared on live TV, but NASA decided not to, and for good reason.
At the time, the space agency was fighting a lawsuit with activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
A few months earlier, Ms O’Hair had sued NASA after Apollo 8 astronauts read the Book of Genesis during a broadcast made on Christmas Day 1968, when they became the first humans to orbit the moon.
Though Ms O’Hair’s case was ultimately dismissed, it made an impression on NASA officials, who worried that any overtly religious display might open the agency up to another lawsuit.
Mr Aldrin’s communion was reported at the time, but he kept the ceremony low-key and, out of respect for the debate over religion on the moon, kept his actions confined to the spacecraft and not the surface of the Moon.
The Apollo 11 Moon landings occurred 50 years ago today
What Buzz Aldrin took with him to the Moon
He later wrote in his 2009 book “Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home From the Moon” that he wished he had found a more universal way to unite the nation after the arrival on the moon.
He explained: “Perhaps if I had it to do over again, I would not choose to celebrate communion.
“Although it was a deeply meaningful experience for me, it was a Christian sacrament, and we had come to the moon in the name of all mankind — be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, agnostics, or atheists.
“But at the time I could think of no better way to acknowledge the enormity of the Apollo 11 experience than by giving thanks to God.”
However, Mr Aldrin would be far from the last astronaut to mark the monumental occasion, it was revealed during National Geographic’s latest issue “The Moon and Beyond”.
“I just felt like Buzz was not the right personality and would not be the best representative for the United States.
“I thought Neil would do better.
“I didn’t dislike Aldrin, didn’t like him either, we all have weaknesses, I didn’t know Jesus when I met him though.”
The American aerospace engineer is a retired NASA employee who was one of the most senior figures of the Apollo series, becoming director of the Manned Spacecraft Centre in 1972.
As head of Flight Operations, Kraft was closely involved in planning and management of the Apollo 8 series during 1968, but he couldn’t help getting involved in other missions too.
His decision would turn out to pay dividends.
How Apollo 11 played out
It reads: “Over the years, NASA astronauts hauled 842 pounds of Moon rocks back to Earth, but the most profound souvenirs weigh nothing – images of Earth.
“Astronauts didn’t just take photos and collect Moon rocks, they also carried an array of objects from Earth into space with them.
“John Young (Gemini 3) notoriously smuggled aboard a corned beef sandwich and shared it with Gus Grissom, his crewmate.
“Grissom pocketed it when crumbs began to float around the cabin.”
“Alan Shepard (Apollo 14) used a sock to hide a six-iron man, which he attached to a tool handle to hit two golf balls on the Moon.
“Charles Duke (Apollo 16) packed a family photo and left it in the Descartes highlands.”
Yesterday, it was revealed how a NASA boss confessed that Buzz Aldrin should have been the first man on the Moon.
Christopher Kraft claimed during Altitude Film’s “Armstrong” that he was solely responsible for the selection of the first man on the Moon, after a debate with Deke Slayton – who was in charge of Apollo 11.
He said: “Did I have anything to do with Neil being the first man on the Moon? Yes. I did it.
“Deke Slayton said ‘Aldrin will be the first guy on the Moon’ but up here [in my head] said ‘we don’t want Aldrin on the Moon’.