Forty-five years ago this week, the world watched in awe as members of the human race set foot on another world for the first time.
American astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. piloted the Lunar Excursion Module or “LEM” from the relative safety of lunar orbit to a jarring landing on the Sea of Tranquility, a large dusty volcanic plain on the Moon’s surface.
Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first men on Earth’s Moon that day — July 20, 1969. The mission, carried out by the United States Government, is considered the most significant accomplishment to date in the history of space exploration, and is often cited as the greatest technological achievement in human history.
Launched from Florida on July 16, the Apollo 11 spacecraft hurtled through space for three days before reaching the Moon, taking up orbit on July 20. While its Command Module remained in orbit under the control of astronaut Michael Collins, the LEM separated from it and navigated independently to the pre-selected landing site.
The landing craft, named Eagle, spent 21 hours on the lunar surface, during which time both Armstrong and Aldrin exited the ship to explore the surrounding area, collect mineral samples, and perform scientific experiments.
The LEM successfully rejoined the Command Module, and all three astronauts returned to Earth on July 24, landing safely in the Pacific Ocean.
Two and a half hours after landing, before starting preparations for leaving the LEM, Aldrin broadcast the following message:
“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.”
An elder of his church, Aldrin then took communion privately using a sacramental kit specially prepared for his use on the moon – the first time a religious ordinance is known to have been performed in the extraterrestrial realm.
The drama of the lunar landing is impressively recreated in the following segment from HBO’s 1998 miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon. Especially moving is the way suspense is depicted giving way to relief as the LEM jolts to a halt on the lunar surface, and the wordless joy and camaraderie shared by Armstrong and Aldrin as they realize they have arrived.
Peace and brotherhood can be achieved when the two most potent forces in civilization — religion and science — join to create one world in its truest and greatest sense. We should continue to become acquainted with human experience through history and philosophy, science and poetry, art and religion. Every discovery of science reveals clearly the divine plan in nature. The remarkable harmony in the physical laws and processes of the universe, from the infinitesimal to the infinite, surpasses mortal understanding and implies a supreme architect, and the beauty and symmetry of God’s handiwork inspire reverence.
Science offers wonderful tools for helping to create the brotherhood of humanity on earth, but the cement of brotherhood does not come from any laboratory. It must come from the heart and mind and spirit of men and women.
Hugh B. Brown, from “An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown”