Is it the most iconic moment of the 20th century? I don’t know. But the Moon landing and walk-ing on the Moon certainly has got to be up there on any list that defines or describes the last century. (Having said that, I am also partial to the Apollo 8 mission and the first circumnavigation of the moon with its photo of Earthrise’ over the Moon.) As the 50th anniversary has drawn closer there have been numerous tributes, reflections, documentaries, and podcasts to enjoy and these bring back memories for me of watching it at school (the first time we had a TV in the classroom). Three things have struck me in the reverie. Firstly, that for me the Moon landing happened on 21st July not the 20th July because that was my experience of it and I remember thinking that this date was so important, never to be forgotten. As I’ve understood time calculations I have somewhat relented on my strident insistence but today’s date will always be Moon landing day for me. The fact that it happened became more important than the date.
Secondly, it seems incomprehensible to me that it is still reported that there are people who think the Moon landing a fake. There are conspiracy theories around today claiming (according to various media reports) that about 10% of Americans, 16% of Britons, and 57% of Russians believe that the US didn’t go to the Moon. The background here seems to be a combination of regarding the science and engineering of the day incapable of the feat, scepticism of the evidence (the film and photo footage and samples brought back) and a distrust of the government (‘they lie to us’). The third thing is, for me, the wish we could recapture the ‘feel’ – or maybe it’s my pre-teen naiveté – that the world became that bit closer because “we (humans) did it; we’ve walked on the Moon” – and nationalism and borders and other demarcations took a back seat for a moment. I’d like to see that unifying “let’s work together, let’s help each other” a lot more.
There is a parallel here for me with Jesus and his resurrection which is something much further back in human history than 50 years but is also certainly ‘world changing’. People are not totally sure of the date but are committed to the existence of this empty tomb. The resurrection of Jesus did happen and it has changed the world. There are many who don’t believe it – despite the evidence. As we move further away from the moment of the resurrection, we’d expect its memory and the number of its adherents to diminish but that hasn’t happened. Something is going on for each generation – and not just for the generation who saw Jesus alive or who spoke to those who saw Jesus alive. People are still encountering Jesus! Sadly, however, the unity of a relationship of peace with God and peace with fellow human beings has frayed into tribes, disputes, even wars.
Now I’d really be on the wrong side of things if both the resurrection of Jesus and the Moon landing were fake news! I believe both happened. I hope one inspires Planet Earth to work together to make this tiny blue ball in the vast universe a good place for all creation. But because we can’t make ‘Heaven on Earth’ I hope the other one who gives his life to us can betrusted so that the good in this world is genuine service of our neighbour while we sing praises to the Crucified One. GS