On that historic July 20, 1969, few learned, but the first action of a human being on the moon was a discreet Presbyterian communion.
The Apollo 11 Lunar Module pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin had taken the Eucharist prepared by the pastor of his Texas church. Prior to communion, Aldrin asked that "all who hear" the first lunar radio broadcast "should thank each in his own way" for the arrival of humans on Earth's natural satellite.
Aldrin on the Moon, with Armstrong reflected in his viewfinder (Photo: Nasa)
Gestures such as Aldrin's marked every step of the Apollo 11 journey, led by Neil Armstrong and also with the participation of Michael Collins (who took care of the command module, orbiting the moon, and eventually did not step on the lunar ground). Despite the space race and climate of American-Soviet rivalry that marked the world 40 years ago, the US government, NASA leadership, and the astronauts themselves did their best to portray their journey as a milestone in the peaceful potential of all humanity. - and largely succeeded.
The chosen landing site was an area in the south of the lunar region known as the Sea of Tranquility, which robotic probes had analyzed and found relatively flat and uneven over the years. The idea was to prevent astronauts from having major problems with landing and lunar walks.
As it descended, some scares: the Lunar Module's onboard computer gave a series of alarms because of the machine's inability, a bit primitive by today's standards, to handle all the data it was receiving at the same time - some computer tasks had to be postponed. At the end of the descent, astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin had only 25 seconds of fuel left for the ride.
Armstrong confirmed the safe descent with the phrase: "Houston, here Base of Tranquility. The eagle has landed reference to the name 'Eagle', or Eagle, given to the Lunar Module." After some difficulty getting through the module's hatch, the astronauts set about exploring the vicinity of the landing site. They took soil samples (described as "almost a dust" by Armstrong), installed a seismograph, planted the American flag, and spoke to then-US President Richard Nixon. The lunar floor was slippery, but the gravity far below Earth's gravity facilitated movement, and Aldrin even trained in a kind of "kangaroo movement."
In addition to the US flag, the astronauts left behind a sign with a drawing of both hemispheres of the earth and the message "Here men of planet earth first stepped on the moon, July 1969 AD. We came in peace in the name of all mankind ". To confirm the peaceful purpose, there was also a gold replica of an olive branch, traditionally an emblem of peace since antiquity, was left behind. The day ended in the most prosaic way imaginable: a seven-hour nap from astronauts inside the module.