One of my Christmas presents was the DVD set of From the Earth to the Moon, the Apollo program docu-drama mini-series Tom Hanks executive produced after he starred in Apollo 13. My wife thought it was new and didn’t realise that I saw it when it was originally released, but she also didn’t know that I wanted to see it again. We have gotten through nine of the twelve discs so far.
One of my Year 7s recently informed me that science has proven that there is no God because people have been to space and didn’t see him up there. Apparently, if there would be any one who would be an atheist, it would be an astronaut. If anything would seem to be the pinnacle of human achievement – of man proving his dependence upon his own scientific prowess – it would be the Apollo program. It took man further than he’s ever been.
On Apollo 8, the first men to reach the Moon marked the occasion by reading from the Bible while in lunar orbit. And not just any part of the Bible. They read from Genesis 1. Frank Borman also read a prayer which was recorded to be played at the midnight service at the Episcopal Church where he was a lay reader. Because they got sued by Madalyn Murray O’Hair over the Genesis reading, NASA got skittish about any further religious expressions being publicly broadcast.
On Apollo 11, Buzz Aldrin discreetly took communion inside the Lunar Module shortly after arriving on the surface of the Moon. The Lunar Module pilots of both Apollo 15 and Apollo 16, the late James Irwin and Charlie Duke, both got involved in Christian ministry in life after NASA. Irwin led several expeditions to Mt Ararat in search of Noah’s Ark. This would seem to indicate a belief in the literalism of Genesis.
Though I don’t know Dave Scott’s specific beliefs, when the Apollo 15 commander parked the Lunar Rover for the final time, he placed a small red Bible on the controls. According to Andrew Chaikin, “If anyone should come this way again, he wanted them to understand who had left his machine here.”
Ed Mitchell also has a spiritual side to him, though it has more to do with the paranormal and the power of the mind. He says that his spiritual awakening in space was the same as Jim Irwin’s, “But you express it in terms of your own belief system, your own experience, and your training.” I would say that either common grace allowed him to experience the omnipresent God because he was open to experiencing something outside of himself, or possibly as Dotty Duke once said “It’s spiritual, but it’s not really the Holy Spirit…”
I don’t know about any of the other Apollo astronauts, but these would disagree with my Year 7. Going to space doesn’t disprove the existence of God. For some it has had the opposite effect.