I have always been a stargazer. One of my favorite things to do as a child was to lie on a blanket on the grass and wait for the stars and the moon to appear. From a child-like perspective the sun seemed to beat down on me but the moon smiled on me and so I smiled back. Some nights the moon seemed so very close even though I knew from science class that it was a quarter of a million miles away. I was fascinated by the lives of astronauts and had determined that if school children were ever to be included in space travel I would be the first on board. I never imagined for a moment that not only would we be able to circle the moon but that I would get to watch as a U.S. astronaut stepped out of the lunar module and put his foot on the surface of the moon.
On the morning of July 1969, forty years ago today astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins took their places aboard Apollo 11 at the Kennedy Space Center and at 9:32AM they had lift off. My sister Frances and I watched it on our television in Ayr Scotland. Fascinated as I was by the launch, it was the landing and subsequent walk on the moon I wanted to see. The trouble was that the moonwalk was to take place at almost 11PM Eastern U.S. time, which was 4AM Scottish time. My mom said that as we had school the next day we couldn’t possibly watch it, but it would be re-aired on television many times over. I was a very compliant child who didn’t give my mom much trouble at all, but this was simply unacceptable to me. “Mom, this moment will never come again in all human history and you want me to sleep through it!!!” So we made a deal. If I would go to bed very early that night she would wake me up for a ‘walking-on-the-moon’ picnic. I will never forget the wonder and exhilaration I felt as I listened to those now infamous words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
When I went back to bed that night I left my bedroom curtain open and stared at the moon out of my window. I prayed for the men, that God would keep them safe, and return them to their families. “They are so far away Father. That’s how you seem sometimes, too – so far away.” As I closed my eyes that night I know that God was watching them as he was watching me as he was watching you. That is the great mystery of God; though at times he seems so far away he is as close as your next breath, only a prayer away.