Tag archives: Apollo 8

For God So Loved the Blue Marble?

by Robert Morrison

December 7, 2012

They’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of the “iconic image” on the Net. AOL notes the photo taken on this date in 1972 from the outbound Apollo XVII spacecraft shaped our image of the earth. I’m so glad they called it earth. I’m indebted for science writer Frank Bures’s recalling this important anniversary to my attention.

He’s right, of course, this image did have a great impact here on Earth. We’re still not sure, he writes, which of the three American astronauts took this amazing photo. They each took many stills of the rapidly receding earth as they rocketed their way to what would be the last of our U.S. manned space voyages to the Moon.

At that point, one member of the Apollo 17 crew picked up a specially made Hasselblad camera and took several photos. No one knows who did this, because all three astronauts recalled taking the photo. Whomever did, it was a stunning, rare shot. You could see nearly all of Africa - the cradle of humanity - as well as the island of Madagascar, the Arabian peninsula and the clouds swirling over the ocean.

The photo would eventually become known as the “Blue Marble,” and it would become one of the most enduring pictures of all time. In fact, that photo probably changed the way we viewed our place in the cosmos more than any other.

Writer Bures acknowledges that the Earthrise photo taken from Apollo 8 probably began the re-orientation of our thinking. Those Apollo 8 astronauts—Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders—were the first men to leave the Earth’s gravitational pull and circle the Moon. They did not land, but they did see the far side and, after breathless minutes here at home as they were lost to radio contact, they reported back to an expectant world. No green cheese that side, either.

Those Apollo 8 heroes boldly went where no man had gone before but they irritated some atheizers here on Earth by reading from the King James Version of Genesis—on Christmas Eve, no less!

I’ve also read that King Faisal of Saudi Arabia assembled his wise men at that time, not sure how he should react to the U.S. landings on the Moon. The crescent Moon, of course, is a symbol of Islam. Saudi kings regard themselves as Custodians of the Holy Places of Islam. (Interesting that that does not include Jerusalem, but that’s a topic for another column.) King Faisal was advised by his Islamic science experts that the Americans had indeed landed on the Moon and it would probably be best not to dispute that fact in public. Better to leave such speculations to the Full Mooners in America, no doubt.

What interests me is what we make of all this. Al Gore and many other environmentalists see the Earth as fragile. Writer Bures stresses that this iconic image reinforced the idea of a planet alone in an inky void. Not very secure. It seemed to cry out for limits to growth, limits to population, limits to visions.

He doesn’t have the whole world in His hands, they tell us. We have the planet in our hands. And we’re so fearful, we’re trembling so violently from this existential terror that we’re about to drop it.

Thus, we have to hurry, right now, to acknowledge this inconvenient truth. We have to give all power to the UN or some other group of credentialed really smart geeks so we can save this fragile planet.

Cosmology explores our place in the cosmos and the origins of the cosmos. I come closest to the “Goldilocks Theory” myself, seeing our Earth and our place in the Universe as “just right.” Still, it’s fun to read what the really smart folks think about origins. How did they manage to miss the one where all that was and is and ever will be is carried about on the back of a really big turtle?

My favorite video on all this was produced by the Discovery Institute in 2005. The Privileged Planet makes the scientific case for Earth’s exceptionalism. It offers compelling evidence for the idea of Intelligent Design. This program shows how even if we limit ourselves to twenty enabling conditions, all of these conditions must be met in precisely the right sequence at precisely the right moment. The probabilities of all this happening by chance—as philosophical materialists insist is must happen—becomes remote and remoter. You might even say, astronomical.

Check out The Privileged Planet for your family. Invite some of your skeptical friends over to watch this one-hour documentary. Just hearing the rich baritone and authoritative British accent of narrator John Rhys-Davies will be worth the effort.

And remember what those valiant astronauts said on that long ago Christmas Eve.

Add to their Earth-shaping words this thought: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

When the Eagle Landed: July 20, 1969

by Robert Morrison

July 20, 2009


Youve doubtless read that the atheizers are in a snit again. They are kicking up dust and dashing into court. They dont want In God We Trust to be engraved over the entrance to the new Capitol Visitor Center. These grinches are always trying to steal Christmas. Maybe the atheizers need to pay more attention to what happened on the Moon.

Forty years ago, Americans and most of the rest of the world were transfixed by the sight of men landing on the Moon. U.S. astronauts had bravely gone where no men had gone before. It took bravery, too. At the last minute, the supremely skilled Neil Armstrong had to adjust the landing site. He put the lunar lander down with just seconds of fuel to spare. As he descended the ladder and became the first man to set foot on an alien world, he memorably said: Thats a small step for man, a giant leap for mankind.

How grateful we can all be that political correctness had not yet risen up to demand that

he say a small step for a person, a giant leap for personkind. Or homo sapiens. Then, Armstrong and Aldrin planted an American flag and a plaque on the lunar surface. They are there still. The plaque reads:

Here Men from the Planet Earth

first set foot upon the Moon

July 1969 A.D.

We came in Peace for all Mankind.

Notice the date. Anno Domini. In the year of Our Lord. Buzz Aldrin was the Lunar Module pilot on that world-historic Apollo XI flight. Aldrin wanted to do something special to commemorate mans first descent onto the Moon.

NASAs nervous nellies were still smarting from atheist complaints of the previous December. Then, when Apollo 8 circled the Moon but did not land on it, the three astronautsFrank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders— read from the Book of Genesis. On Christmas Eve, their strong and reassuring voices came across the hundreds of thousands of miles of inky void.

Now in the Lunar Module, Aldrin would have to be creative. Creative he was. With the NASA suits banning any overt religious displays, Aldrin consulted his own heart. He took from his personal pouch a small flask of wine, a chalice, and some wafers. He read from a printed card Jesuswords from the Gospel of John:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Forty years have passed since that moment. What have we accomplished in space since?

The Moon might have been explored and colonized. We might have found there the resources we needed to meet the much vaunted energy crisis. But we turned our backs on all of that.

The photos from Apollo 8 struck different people differently. For the intrepid astronautswhose wives had been told they had only a 50-50 chance of survivalawe and wonder, faith and courage were the response.

To many others, however, the sight of this pale blue marble must have been a shock.

Without a sturdy faith to sustain them, they began to speak of a fragile earth. Seeing those amazing photos must have chilled them, making them cling to this lifeboat Earth all the more desperately.

They say to themselves: He does not have the whole world in His hands; weve got it in ours, and were shaking so violently we may drop it. That at least is the subtext for much of the chicken littling we read in the media. Global cooling (1970s)? No. Global warming (1990s). No. Climate change (2000s) is the existential threat. Nuclear winter? No. Its rising oceans that threaten our very survival.

There are real consequences in this world to atheism. First comes loss of faith. Next, loss of courage. And finally loss of will. Our leaders seem to have lost the will to do what those brave Americans did before us. They have lost that amazing insouciance of young Jack. Kennedy. On the day before he died, J.F.K. blithely said: This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it.

The night we landed on the Moon, someone put a bouquet on John F. Kennedys grave at Arlington. His great task was accomplished: Mr. President, said the unsigned note, the Eagle has landed.