Claim: Account by astronaut Buzz Aldrin describes his taking Communion on the moon.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, February 2010]
Forty years ago today two human beings changed history by walking on the surface of the moon. But what happened before Buzz Aldrin (pictured in the LM, left) and Neil Armstrong exited the Lunar Module is perhaps even more amazing, if only because so few people know about it.
I'm talking about the fact that Buzz Aldrin took communion on the surface of the moon. Some months after his return, he wrote about it in Guideposts magazine. And a few years ago I had the privilege of meeting him myself. I asked him about it and he confirmed the story to me, and I wrote about in my book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask).
The background to the story is that Aldrin was an elder at his Presbyterian Church in Texas during this period in his life, and knowing that he would soon be doing something unprecedented in human history, he felt he should mark the occasion somehow, and he asked his pastor to help him. And so the pastor consecrated a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine. And Buzz Aldrin took them with him out of the Earth's orbit and on to the surface of the moon.
He and Armstrong had only been on the lunar surface for a few minutes when Aldrin made the following public statement: "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." He then ended radio communication and there, on the silent surface of the moon, 250,000 miles from home, he read a verse from the Gospel of John, and he took communion. Here is his own account of what happened:
"In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.'
I had intended to read my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute [they] had requested that I not do this. NASA was already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O'Hare [sic], the celebrated opponent of religion, over the
And of course, it's interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the
Origins: One of the smaller details lost amidst the tremendous historic and scientific achievements of the
Aldrin openly described his Communion experience on the moon in print several times, including an
According to our schedule, we were supposed to eat a meal, rest awhile, and then sleep for seven hours after arriving on the moon. After all, we had already worked a long, full day and we wanted to be fresh for our extra-vehicular activity (EVA). Mission Control had notified the media that they could take a break and catch their breath since there wouldn't be much happening for several hours as we rested. But it was hard to rest with all that adrenaline pumping through our systems.
Nevertheless, in an effort to remain calm and collected, I decided that this would be an excellent time for a ceremony I had planned as an expression of gratitude and hope. Weeks before, as the Apollo mission drew near, I had originally asked Dean Woodruff, pastor at Webster Presbyterian Church, where my family and I attended services when I was home in Houston, to help me come up with something I could do on the moon, some appropriate symbolic act regarding the universality of seeking. I had thought in terms of doing something overtly patriotic, but everything we came up with sounded trite and jingoistic. I settled on a
I wanted to do something positive for the world, so the spiritual aspect appealed greatly to me, but NASA was still smarting from a lawsuit filed by atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair after the
I met with Deke Slayton, one of the original "Mercury Seven" astronauts who ran our flight-crew operations, to inform him of my plans and that I intended to tell the world what I was doing. Deke said, "No, that's not a good idea, Buzz. Go ahead and have communion, but keep your comments more general." I understood that Deke didn't want any more trouble.
So, during those first hours on the moon, before the planned eating and rest periods, I reached into my personal preference kit and pulled out the communion elements along with a three-by-five card on which I had written the words of Jesus: "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." I poured a thimbleful of wine from a sealed plastic container into a small chalice, and waited for the wine to settle down as it swirled in the one-sixth Earth gravity of the moon. My comments to the world were inclusive: "I would like to request a few moments of
Neil watched respectfully, but made no comment to me at the time.
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
When the Rev. M. Dean Woodruff [minister of the Webster Presbyterian church where Aldrin was an elder] brought out the bread for Communion, a portion of the loaf had been broken away. The minister explained that Aldrin took a portion of the loaf with him on the moon trip and at some time during the afternoon, after the moon landing is made, Aldrin would symbolically join the other parishioners in Communion during one of his rest periods.
The handwritten card containing the Bible verse that Aldrin recited during his lunar Communion service was offered at auction in 2007.
Last updated: 19 July 2013
Aldrin, Buzz with Wayne Warga. Return to Earth. New York: Random House, 1973. Aldrin, Buzz with Ken Abraham. Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon. Harmony Publishers, 2009. ISBN 0-307-46345-1 (pp. 25-27). Bates, Claire. "Top 10 Startling Facts About Apollo 11's Historic Moon Mission." The Telegraph. 17 July 2009. Cresswell, Matthew. "How Buzz Aldrin's Communion on the Moon Was Hushed Up." The Guardian. 13 September 2012. Curry, Matt. "Aldrin Note Up for Auction." USA Today. 19 September 2007. Waters, David. "First Communion on the Moon." The Washington Post. 20 July 2009. Associated Press. "Aldrin Carries Communion Bread with Him to the Moon." Chicago Tribune. 21 July 1969 (p. A12). Associated Press. "Communion Celebrated on the Moon." The [Sarasota] Herald-Tribune. 18 August 1969 (p. A5).