There are many things man can do on the moon. Drop a feather and a bowling ball. Test if it’s made of cheese. But one thing man usually can’t quite do on the moon is drink. Even if you’re one of the first people to go there.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin went to the moon 47 years ago this July, along with Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins – who was clearly chill enough to hang out in Apollo 11. According to the headlines that followed the trip, nobody took communion. Yet the reality is, someone did.
Here’s what most of us know about their journey: two astronauts walked on the surface of the moon, which some people entirely disbelieve and others absolutely believe but have since logged the event into their memory as some non-consequential lunar strolling. And then there’s the famous, if controversial, quote: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” (Armstrong claims he said “a man,” despite auditory evidence and also just, killing the quote.)
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Aldrin had already participated in space exploration—the longest “space walker” in history, in fact—but when he went to the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission, the committed Presbyterian wanted to commemorate humankind’s first moon strut with something very specific: communion. (Also known as the Christian religious act of eating consecrated bread and wine as a symbol or incarnation of Jesus.) As Aldrin wrote in Guidepost magazine only a few months after his return, “I could carry the bread in a plastic packet, the way regular inflight food is wrapped. And the wine also–there will be just enough gravity on the moon for liquid to pour. I’ll be able to drink normally from a cup.”
Despite careful and conscientious planning with the pastor of his Western Presbyterian Church, and despite performing an unprecedented act on the only satellite rock created by planet collision that also creepily stalks the Earth, nothing much is known of it. We know that a golf ball was hit on the moon. So why don’t we get a good visual of some moon wine? Aldrin actually recounts the way the wine “curled” up the side of the cup gracefully. That would have been a cool pic!
As he told Guideposts, “In the radio blackout I opened the little plastic packages which contained bread and wine.” He had wanted to share that moment with the world, but apparently NASA wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea. Madalyn Murray O’Hair had previously protested the reading of Genesis by Apollo 8, so the concept of the second man to step onto the moon performing a religious act might have been a bit too much at the time.
So Aldrin took his communion, and drank his wine, but historically it’s gone basically unnoticed. What we remember of most lunar landings, or incredibly expensive, incredibly incredible space explorations, is mostly that we haven’t found aliens yet. And, yes, when we do, we’ll need a glass of wine.