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Saturday, July 20, 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of Americans landing on the moon!

Marking this anniversary should have been the buzz (pun intended) of the Western world, right?

Instead, people tweeted a variety of negative remarks:

‘Who cares?’
‘This country stinks.’
‘That’s all in the past.’
‘Did it really happen?’

Even one of the commentators on ITV4 who mentioned it during the Tour de France coverage said:

Allegedly.

That’s a sad state of affairs for such a great achievement, one which I remember clearly as a schoolchild at the time. So does a Fox News correspondent:

Commemoration at the White House

I was delighted to see that President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump paid the great heroes their due. As Neil Armstrong has gone to his rest, his family were invited. Good call.

Mrs Trump knocks it out of the park with this one:

I will get to Hollywood and the moon landing further down in the post, but, for now, let us recall one of Astronaut Armstrong’s quotes. Who alive then could forget the ticker tape parade, televised nationwide?

Returning to the White House commemoration, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin was thrilled:

Hollywood’s take: First Man

I have not seen this film, nor do I intend to do so.

First Man made its debut in August 2018.

As China is buying up much of Hollywood, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) asks a pertinent question, given the revisionist nature of the film:

Cotton was not alone.

Conservative columnist Don Surber also made his views known:

Hollywood made a movie about Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin going to the moon. It picked a Canadian actor to play Armstrong …

Then the movie omitted the planting of the AMERICAN FLAG on the moon.

That was the sole purpose of the mission.

This flick shows Hollywood is anti-American.

The House UnAmerican Activities Committee was correct. Communist[s] were taking over Hollywood for propaganda purposes …

This week, John McCain died. I remember that one of the things that kept him alive in Hanoi was the knowledge that we landed on the moon. OK, he thought it was seven months earlier than it was, but Hanoi fed him Fake News but let the truth slip that Apollo 8 made it to the dark side of the moon.

JFK inspired us: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

He Made America Great Again.

I was 9.

Reagan Made America Great Again.

Trump Made America Great Again.

Hollywood can go to China.

Speaking of Trump, Hollywood and First Man:

As Dinesh D’Souza pointed out, the movie seems to have airbrushed out the Cold War:

Breitbart had more on Gosling on September 1:

Explaining the decision to omit the American flag-planting scene, Canadian actor Ryan Gosling, who stars as astronaut Neil Armstrong, said that the landing “transcended countries and borders” and that it was a “human achievement” rather than an American one.

“I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it,” Gosling said. “I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible.”

On September 3, 2018, Breitbart reported:

Last week, [director Damien] Chazelle dismissed criticism that the omission of the American flag was meant to be a political statement. “To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no,” the First Man director said in an interview with Variety. “My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America’s mission to the moon–particularly Neil Armstrong’s personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours.”

Buzz Aldrin, the most visible member of the crew today, wasted no time in tweeting the historic photo of the American flag:

He had saluted the flag on the moon (look for his ring finger and pinkie):

The portrayal of Neil Armstrong rankled many Americans. Returning to Breitbart‘s September 1 article, fellow astronauts Aldrin and Chuck Yeager were not happy:

Aldrin indicating disapproval of the film’s anti-American sentiment would provide further embarrassment for its director Damien Chazelle, who has reportedly portrayed frontman Neil Armstrong as a “liberal progressive,” “anti-Trump,” and “non-flag waver.” When asked his opinion about such a portrayal, legendary pilot Chuck Yeager said that it would not reflect the Neil Armstrong he knew.

Yeager tweeted:

What really happened

On the 50th anniversary of the day Apollo 11 launched, Aldrin tweeted:

Even though the text is in French, those who were not alive for the ground-breaking, historic moon landing will enjoy seeing the many photos at L’Internaute, which bring back many fond memories for me.

This 20-minute film by David Woods shows the complete descent that day. Compelling viewing:

A NASA webpage features the video and gives us the following information. Yes, there was drama, too:

Explanation: It had never been done before. But with the words “You’re Go for landing”, 50 years ago this Saturday, Apollo 11 astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong were cleared to make the first try. The next few minutes would contain more than a bit of drama, as an unexpected boulder field and an unacceptably sloping crater loomed below. With fuel dwindling, Armstrong coolly rocketed the lander above the lunar surface as he looked for a clear and flat place to land. With only seconds of fuel remaining, and with the help of Aldrin and mission control calling out data, Armstrong finally found a safe spot — and put the Eagle down. Many people on Earth listening to the live audio felt great relief on hearing “The Eagle has landed”, and great pride knowing that for the first time ever, human beings were on the Moon. Combined in the featured descent video are two audio feeds, a video feed similar to what the astronauts saw, captions of the dialog, and data including the tilt of the Eagle lander. The video concludes with the panorama of the lunar landscape visible outside the Eagle. A few hours later, hundreds of millions of people across planet Earth, drawn together as a single species, watched fellow humans walk on the Moon.

Relive — or find out more about — the moon landing on a special NASA page.

Here are a few front pages. The whole country was buzzing:

If this were fake, would Buzz Aldrin and others be tweeting about it?

Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin

It seems Buzz Aldrin wishes he were younger so that he could fly to Mars:

Here he is making a visit to the pilots on a Delta aircraft:

On a more serious note, Aldrin — a practising Presbyterian — took Communion on the Apollo 11 mission, but the general public did not know.

A 2012 Guardian article has more (emphases mine):

Before Armstrong and Aldrin stepped out of the lunar module on July 20, 1969, Aldrin unstowed a small plastic container of wine and some bread. He had brought them to the moon from Webster Presbyterian church near Houston, where he was an elder. Aldrin had received permission from the Presbyterian church’s general assembly to administer it to himself. In his book Magnificent Desolation he shares the message he then radioed to Nasa: “I would like to request a few moments of silence … and 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.”

He then ate and drank the elements. The surreal ceremony is described in an article by Aldrin in a 1970 copy of Guideposts magazine: “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.”

Not only that, Aldrin also read from the Gospel of John.

The public never found out until years later. This was because of Madalyn Murray O’Hair‘s objection to the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis:

Aldrin had originally planned to share the event with the world over the radio. However, at the time Nasa was still reeling from a lawsuit filed by the firebrand atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, resulting in the ceremony never being broadcast. The founder of American Atheists and self-titled “most hated woman in America” had taken on Nasa, as well as many other public organisation[s]. Most famously, she successfully fought mandatory school prayer and bible recitation in US public schools.

After the Apollo 8 crew had read out the Genesis creation account in orbit, O’Hair wanted a ban on Nasa astronauts practising religion on earth, in space or “around and about the moon” while on duty. She believed it violated the constitutional separation between church and state. In Magnificent Desolation, Aldrin explains how astronaut Deke Slayton, who ran the Apollo 11 flight crew operations, told him to tone down his lunar communiqué. “Go ahead and have communion, but keep your comments more general,” he advised. Looking back Aldrin writes that the communion was his way of thanking God for the success of the mission. Yet, later he hinted that he could have been more inclusive:

“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.”

O’Hair’s case against Nasa eventually fizzled out, but it dramatically changed the tone of the Apollo 11 landing. Aldrin had originally intended a much more pioneering Christopher Columbus-style ceremony on the moon. That was never to be.

Apollo 8’s Genesis message was delivered on Christmas Day 1968, incidentally.

Back now to Apollo 11. Aldrin’s home church still commemorates his out of this world Holy Communion, which was a beautiful way to give thanks to God for His Son and the successful moon landing mission:

at Webster Presbyterian church – the spiritual home of many astronauts – Aldrin’s communion service is still celebrated every July, known as Lunar Communion Sunday. Pastor Helen DeLeon told me how they replay the tape of Aldrin on the moon and recite Psalm eight, which he had quoted on his return trip to Earth (“… what is man that thou art mindful of him”). The church still holds the chalice that Aldrin brought back with him. Judy Allton, a geologist and historian of Webster Presbyterian church, produced a paper, presented at a Nasa conference, arguing that communion could be an essential part of future manned space travel. She claims that rituals such as Aldrin’s communion “reinforce the homelink”.

In 2002, Aldrin did not appreciate being poked with the Bible by an irreverent moon landing denier. Aldrin punched the man. Perth Now recapped what happened:

On September 9, 2002, Aldrin was accosted by conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrel and a film crew outside a Beverly Hills hotel he was lured to on the pretext of being interviewed for a Japanese children’s TV show.

The footage shows Sibrel confronting Aldrin and demanding he swear on the Bible he walked on the Moon, calling the former astronaut out for being a “thief, liar and coward”.

“You’re the one who said you walked on the Moon when you didn’t,” Sibrel says.

Aldrin is also reported to have been aggressively poked with the good book.

The 72-year-old lost his cool and punched the heckler in the jaw.

Pleading self-defence Aldrin was let off by police on the basis of an absence of visible injury and a lack of criminal record.

Believers sided with Aldrin after the regrettable affair, though it could be said his heated response to the heckling provided grist for conspiracy theorists’ mill.

On a lighter note, in 2017, Revolution magazine, which discusses machines of all types, interviewed Aldrin about the watches he and his fellow astronauts wore on the mission. It also covered watches worn by astronauts on other Apollo missions. The brand of choice? Omega:

The Tribute to Apollo 11 45th anniversary limited edition is another phenomenal demonstration of Omega’s ability to thoroughly modernize its design language while retaining a salient link to the past. The watch is configured to evoke the ref. 105.012 Speedmaster worn by Revolution UK14 cover star Buzz Aldrin when he stepped onto the Moon in 1969. While Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon, his Speedmaster was left behind in the Lunar Module whose electronic timer had failed. Meanwhile, according to Aldrin, “It was optional to wear the watch [outside of the spacecraft]. Few things are less necessary when walking around on the Moon than knowing what time it is in Houston, Texas. Nonetheless, being a watch guy, I decided to strap the Speedmaster onto my right wrist around the outside of my bulky spacesuit.”

That’s right, he made a conscious decision to strap his Omega onto his wrist because what kind of Space Cowboy would be complete without his most heroic of timepieces? This made his Speedmaster the first watch on the Moon.

Wow. I never gave the astronauts’ watches a thought, especially with regard to the moon landing.

Conclusion

May we never say the moon landing didn’t take place or that it was an unremarkable achievement.

America’s moon landing was indescribable. People all over the world who were alive at the time remember the excitement and awe they felt that day.

When my better half and I were on holiday in Cannes this year, after dinner we went back to our hotel room to sit on the balcony and enjoy what was going on below at street level as well as above in the sky.

On June 18, 2015, we saw something neither of us had ever witnessed: a disappearing new moon.

That day, incidentally, marked the beginning of Ramadan for some Muslims. As is true for Jews, certain feast days begin in one 24-hour period or the next, the Last Supper being one example. In any event, these periods of religious fasts or feasts are dictated by the moon’s movement.

Anyway, we sat watching the moon. I thought I was seeing things when, within five minutes, the crescent began approaching the horizon. Cautiously, I asked SpouseMouse who said, ‘It’s definitely going downward.’ Within another five minutes the moon was no longer visible.

Watch for the moon to move up past the bright planets Venus and Jupiter - and the star Regulus in the constellation Leo the Lion - from about June 19-21.I tried taking pictures but our camera just wasn’t powerful enough to capture this phenomenon. The other interesting thing was seeing Regulus, Jupiter and Venus in all this. Keep Talking Greece has an explanation as well as a graphic (reproduced at left) from EarthSky.org:

the night sky has to offer an amazing cosmic show. From June 19th to June 21st, the crescent Moon is playing games with Venus and Jupiter offering stargazers a once in a lifetime experience.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac observed that, between June 19 and 20, 2015, the crescent moon joined Venus and Jupiter.

We suspected that the further south one was in the Northern Hemisphere, the better the visuals. This phenomenon is a dark moon, different to a blue moon.

SpouseMouse said, ‘It’s not surprising that so many cultures took a great interest in nature and the skies. What else was there to do?’

MoonConnection has a great illustration of the phases for June 2015. Entirely normal but fascinating nonetheless.

Stones of Wonder explains what the moon in its various cycles must have meant to our ancestors so long ago (emphases mine):

The most important is probably that the twelve or thirteen full moons over the course of the year do not rise and set in the same positions on the horizon. The full moons in summer rise and set much further to the south compared with those in winter. This means that the full moons of summer are in the sky for a shorter period than those of winter, and reach a lower altitude in the sky. From the perspective of a pre-technological society, it would seem very lucky that the winter full moons rose earlier and set later, providing light through the long winter nights just when it was needed most. In fact, it probably seemed miraculous. The full moon nearest to midwinter is always the highest and longest shining full moon of the year, and everyone has experienced bright moonlit frosty nights around the winter holiday.

Once this seasonal difference in the full moons had been noticed, a further fact would probably have been observed as well, as the years passed. This is that from year to year the rising and setting positions of these winter and summer solstice moons themselves change. The change from one winter solstice or summer solstice to its equivalent a year later is about 3°. (This is the same as the width of six moon diameters, and the change would be plain to any careful observer.) This is the most obvious way in which the other cycle of the moon’s movement reveals itself. The moon goes through a cycle of horizon positions which repeats itself every 18.6 years. Fundamentally, the cycle is of a widening and narrowing band of rising and setting positions which the moon at any phase can attain. At one extreme point of the cycle, called the ‘major standstill’ (following Alexander Thom), the moon will rise and set far to the north, well beyond the position of the sun at the summer solstice. Two weeks later, the moon will be rising and setting far to the south, only appearing in the sky for a very short period.

I can understand why early Doctors of the Church transformed events such as Summer Solstice into religious feasts.

Regarding Summer Solstice, Crystal Links tells us that Saint Eligius, who lived in the 7th century:

warned the recently-Christianized inhabitants of Flanders against these pagan solstitial celebrations. According to the Vita by his companion Ouen, he would say:

No Christian on the feast of Saint John or the solemnity of any other saint performs solestitia [summer solstice rites] or dancing or leaping or diabolical chants.”

Indeed, as Saint Eligius demonstrates, Mid-Summer has been Christianized as the feast of Saint John the Baptist: notably, unlike all other saints’ days, this feast is celebrated on his birthday and not on the day of his martyrdom, which is separately observed as the “Decollation of John the Baptist” on 29 August. That more conventional day of Saint John the Baptist is not marked by Christian churches with the emphasis one might otherwise expect of such an important saint.

As for his solsticial birthday, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24) as a Solemnity, which is the highest degree a liturgical feast can have. It is even one of the few saint’s feasts that is celebrated even when it falls on a Sunday; typically the feast of a saint is superseded when it falls on a Sunday. There is hardly any way that the feast of St John the Baptist could be given more emphasis in the liturgical calendar.

The celebration of Midsummer’s Eve was from ancient times linked to the summer solstice. People believed that mid-summer plants had miraculous and healing powers and they therefore picked them on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. In later years, witches were also thought to be on their way to meetings with other evil powers.

In Sweden Mid-summer celebration originates from the time before Christianity; it was celebrated as a sacrifice time in the sign of the fertility.

The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times. The concentration of the observance is not on the day as we reckon it, commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the pre-Christian beginning of the day, which falls on the previous eve. In Sweden, Finland and Estonia, Midsummer’s Eve is considered the greatest festival of the year, comparable only with Walpurgis Night, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.

Secular celebrations still take place on Midsummer’s Eve. A former employer of mine in England held a dinner-dance on or around June 21.

In France, a feast and a bonfire are still part of the celebrations held on June 24 rather than the day of the Solstice itself. An excellent site on the best of the Bordeaux region, My French Heaven, described the events in 2015 accompanied by marvellous photographs:

On or around the date of the Summer Solstice, every year, in the French countryside, villagers light up a big fire in a field and dance around it until the last flame has gone. We call this « Fête de la Saint Jean » or « Saint John’s Feast” in reference to Saint John the Baptiste. But the Christians actually hijacked this tradition. It was originally a pagan rite meant to celebrate the sun.

Is it wrong that clergy turned pagan rituals into Christian feast days? Personally, I do not think so.

Is it wrong that we still regard the skies and seasons in a state of wonder and celebration? Not as long as, in doing so, we marvel at what is God’s creation.

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