Apollo 11: Where Were You?

This week is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. It has been awe-inspiring to see video clips replayed of the moonshot during the morning and evening newscasts. On Wednesday, July 16, 1969, at 10: 32 AM (CST) the Apollo 11 space capsule, with its crew of three (Astronauts Aldrin, Collins and Armstrong), was launched atop the huge Saturn V rocket on Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. With 7.5 million pounds of thrust, it was sent into its journey 238,900 miles to the surface of the moon. It would take four days to arrive.

At precisely 8:56 PM on Sunday night, July 20th, Neil Armstrong made the first human footprint on the lunar surface with the exclamation: "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind!" And history was made! In total, 6 similar missions to the moon's surface would follow over a 41 month time span between July 1969 and December 1972. This epic and herculean feat has not been matched since that time! Many have said that this was America's finest hour!
Mission to Mars - Johnson Space Center, Houston

This question sounds like a parlor game: "Where were you when...?" Personal history can be reviewed with such inquiries. This week's Apollo anniversary has given me an opportunity for some personal reflection. I asked myself the question of my where-a-bouts fifty years ago. 1969 was the year I graduated from high school in May at eighteen years of age. Now you know my age! The Dow Jones Industrial average was at a "paltry" $838.92 on this date. The minimum wage was $1.60 and the average annual wage was $6,500. You could purchase a medium-priced home for $40,000.

So, where was I? I had gone to church that Sunday evening just before the lunar landing. We had rushed over to Don and Berniece Etcheson's house afterwards for a youth fellowship and watch party. I can remember the adults and youth present being fixated on the television screen during the historic moment when Armstrong descended the module's ladder onto the dusty surface of the moon. It was surreal then and it seems so unreal today. Making footprints on the moon was incidental to the mission of Apollo 11, but it is something that still captivates my imagination.

America is still pioneering space. Monique and I were at the Johnson Space Center in Houston four years ago and we took in all of the exhibits. I was especially eager to see what was on display concerning the proposed mission to see a manned space craft to Mars by as early as 2025. I am not sure this goal will ever be realized. Instead of a four-day journey, the mission to Mars would take six to eight months! That's what makes the lunar missions so spectacular, historic and unique.

About the matter of footprints, just another interesting fact. 12 pairs of moon boots were left on the lunar surface to compensate for the 842 pounds of rock, pebble, and sand samples that were retrieved during the six missions for scientific study. I have thought a lot about the significance of human footprints more than 230,000 miles away. Yes, the obvious... man has left his mark on a distant and fascinating astronomical body that orbits our earth. But, when compared to the mark that Jesus, our Lord made when He walked this earth 2000 years ago, the impact is not nearly as great.

Jesus walked everywhere He went during his three-year earthly sojourn. The Greek word for walking is a compound word that literally means to "tread about." Metaphorically, our Lord left his "footprints" of teaching, healing, and saving in sacrificial love upon the lives of many who came to Him in need. We are compelled to follow His example and leave our mark of love and compassion as well. "And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments" (2 John 6). What kind of "footprints" are you leaving upon this world for the cause of Christ?

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com


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