Monday, July 20, 2009

From the Earth to the Moon

I was trying to think of a way to tie in today's 40th anniversary of the moon landing, and I thought of the Apollo 8 mission. On Christmas Eve, 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 made a television broadcast from beyond the moon. They showed the dramatic first view of the Earth rising above the lunar surface and read from Genesis 1:

William Anders "We are now approaching lunar sunrise and, for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Jim Lovell "And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Frank Borman "And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

I suspect this reading was, in part, a response to the reported statement by Yuri Gagarin that he didn't see God when he went up into space (according to Wikipedia there is no record of Gagarin actually saying that, but instead it came from a speech by Krushchev). Remember that theism vs atheism got tied up in cold war propaganda (e.g. "under god" was added to the US Pledge of Allegience in 1954, in part in opposition to "godless communists").

I'm sure I've seen a LEGO mosaic of that iconic image of the Earth rising over the lunar surface, but when I went looking for it I ran across Gary McIntyre's solar system ceiling.

This was built to order for the Jewkes Brothers Construction's million dollar house to be featured in the Utah Valley Parade of Homes. Okay, it's close enough to what I wanted, and is just an amazing MOC. If you look closely at the lunar surface you'll see an Apollo Lunar Lander, and then of course we see the whole solar system in the sky above.

Okay, there is no specific religious content in this LEGO creation, but I'd argue that contemplation of the heavens has always forced man to think beyond himself to ponder the eternal. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork," writes the Psalmist, and Dante portrays a trip through the solar system as an image of Heaven. On the other hand, Carl Sagan's contemplation on the pale blue dot led him to different conclusions.

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