NASA Hid Aldrin’s Moon Communion
2013-07-23 0:00

By Elizabeth Dias | TIME

The Secret Communion on the Moon: The 44-Year Anniversary

The date, July 20, 1969, will forever be known as the day the United States of America put the first man on the moon. What most people do not know is the date also marks when Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin celebrated the first and only Lord’s Supper on the moon, a fact the U.S. government refused to make public at the time.

Inside the lunar module, just hours before stepping onto the moon for the first time, Aldrin radioed Houston Space Center Mission Control. He asked for a few moments of silence “to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever 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.”

In that moment of silence that followed, Aldrin silently read a passage from the book of John that he had written out on a 3×5 card: “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.” Then he took out the miniature chalice and bread and wine from his personal allowance pouch. “I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me,” he told Guideposts magazine in 1970. “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.” Neil Armstrong, the other astronaut onboard, did not participate.

But that was not Aldrin’s original plan—he had wanted to celebrate communion on the air with the rest of his comments, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was not happy about it. Just months earlier, the Apollo 8 astronauts broadcast parts of the Biblical creation narrative from the book of Genesis while orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve: ”In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

Atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair sued, arguing that the astronauts were government employees and therefore their actions violated the separation of church and state. The Supreme Court dismissed the case—for lack of jurisdiction—but it created enough of a stir that NASA wanted to avoid any such distractions from their missions. When Aldrin, a devout Presbyterian, told NASA flight operations coordinator Deke Slayton of his plan to celebrate communion during the live broadcast, Slayton told him to stand down.


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As portrayed in this film clip from the HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon" :

Replica of the chalice Buzz Aldrin used on the moon and the plaque that is on the leg of the lunar module. Source:

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