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Presbyterian Minister Recalls His Secret Apollo Mission


Dean Woodruff remembers the small, but "top secret" role he had in the Apollo moon landing 40 years ago.

The 76-year-old retired pastor of the Webster Presbyterian Church in Webster, Texas helped Astronaut Buzz Aldrin plan an "event of personal religious significance." It would be completed during the three hours that Aldrin and fellow Astronaut Neil Armstrong spent on the lunar surface.

"Buzz asked me to come up with suggestions on ways he could give thanksgiving for all people," says Woodruff. Aldrin was an elder at the church.

When the "Eagle", or lunar module, landed Aldrin and Armstrong on the moon, it carried a small container that held a piece of bread that Aldrin would take as communion, a significant part of the religious service in the Presbyterian church.

It was top secret because so few people knew about the plan, not even Aldrin's wife. "He wanted to do this privately and with no publicity because he didn't want to take away from what he was trying to do," Woodruff told VOA as he recounted the planning process.

Woodruff said Aldrin was also mindful of the complaints from atheists to the earlier reading of several passages from the Bible by astronaut James Borman who commanded Apollo 8 in 1968.

"His simple desire to say 'I want to give thanksgiving for all mankind' would be lost in the controversy," Woodruff said.

One year after the historic moon walk, Aldrin wrote about the experience in a church publication. He also mentioned it in Return to Earth a book published in 1973.

But for several years Aldrin never mentioned it in public.

Every year, on the Sunday nearest 20 July, Webster Presyberian Church commenorates the lunar communion by displaying the bread container Aldrin took to the moon. Woodruff refers to it as a chalice.


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