July 20, 1969, US Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) landed on the Moon (while astronaut Michael Collins continued to orbit the Moon in the Command Module).
Today, included in the 45-year anniversary celebrations of the event is the commemoration of Aldrin taking communion on the lunar surface. Yasmine Hafiz, associate editor for The Huffington Post‘s Religion section, writes, “Aldrin wanted to commemorate the moment in a way he found most personally meaningful.”
Aldrin, a church elder at Webster Presbyterian Church in Webster, Texas, at the time, spoke to his pastor Dean Woodruff to try to find a way to symbolize the wonder and awe of the moon landing a few weeks before lift-off. Aldrin said, “We wanted to express our feeling that what man was doing in this mission transcended electronics and computers and rockets.”
Before taking communion, Aldrin silently read passages from the Bible, which he had hand written on a piece of paper: “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” (John 15:5) and “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:4).
This wasn’t the first time Scripture was read in space. December 24, 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 publicly read in turn from the first chapter of Genesis as they orbited the Moon. Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman recited verses 1 through 10, using the King James Version text.