Spirituality In Space

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 22 2012 @ 5:36pm

In the years after his lunar trip, Buzz Aldrin repeatedly recounted taking communion on the moon. An excerpt from his book, Magnificent Desolation:

I poured a thimblefull of wine from a sealed plastic container into a small chalice, and waited for the wine to settle down as it swirled in the one-sixth Earth gravity of the moon. My comments to the world were inclusive: "I would like to request a few moments of silence … and to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way." I silently read the Bible passages as I partook of the wafer and the wine, and offered a private prayer for the task at hand and the opportunity I had been given.

Rebecca Rosen reflects on the religiosity of astronauts: 

This ultimate scientific endeavor does not answer the questions religion seeks to answer; it brings humans into a close encounter with their own smallness, the Earth's beauty, and the vastness of the cosmos. Faced with these truths, is it any wonder that some astronauts turn to religion? Some surely find comfort in the words of secular philosopher-scientists like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson. But others will find that the ancient religions of Earth have some greater power, some deeper resonance, when they have traveled safely so far from their homes. Astronaut James Irwin put it this way: "As we got farther and farther away it diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man, has to make a man appreciate the creation of God and the love of God."

(Video: Muslim astronaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor praying during Ramadan on the International Space Station.)