Our oldest daughter, Kristin, gave me a book for Christmas on the flight of Apollo 8, a U.S. mission to orbit the moon by Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders back in 1968. As some of you know, I am a real space nut and this kind of book actually thrills me as I was a young boy/man when these events took place and I remember them with fondness. This particular flight put the U.S. ahead in the space race with Russia as it was the first time that mankind had successfully gone to the moon and safely returned to earth.
For those of you who may remember the flight, it was on Christmas Eve in 1968 that Borman, Lovell and Anders read the creation story from Genesis 1 of the Bible to a record audience back on earth. From then on, the U.S. pulled away from Russian and this flight was the crucial predecessor to Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins flying to the moon for the first manned lunar landing in July, 1969.
But tonight’s post is about the first soft lunar landing – and it wasn’t by the United States. Yep, it was by the Russians… However, the spaceship was unmanned and, therefore, left the door open for the U.S. to win the Cold War space race. On February 3, 1966, Lunik 9 soft landed on the lunar surface in an area called the Ocean of Storms. The circular capsule opened like a flower, deployed its antennas and started sending pictures and television images back to earth. The entire spacecraft weighted about 220 pounds and gave the Soviets their third “first” in the race to the moon.
Back in September, 1959, not so long after the Soviet Sputnik was launched, Russia successfully sent Lunik 2 to the moon that impacted the lunar surface and became the first time that anything on earth had reached the moon. A month later, in October of the same year, Lunik 3 flew around the moon and transmitted the first images back to earth of the dark side of the moon. So after Lunik 9, the Russian space program was light years ahead of where the U.S. was and it was Apollo 8 that finally put the United States in the lead for the race to land men on the moon and then return them safely to earth.
Whenever I write about space or, more specifically, the moon I can’t help but be reminded of the book of Genesis and the creation story. While we now know about the sun, the moon and the stars, this wasn’t always the case. The ancient Egyptian culture had more than 3000 gods included Ra, their sun god. Moses recounts to us in the creation story that God created the greater light and the lesser light – not even bothering to refer to them as the sun and the moon. By comparison, our God was so powerful and awesome that even the sun and the moon weren’t even worth naming. This was in direct contradiction to the Egyptian system of gods that had Ra and other important “deities” controlling almost everything.
Of course, our verse for tonight is the one that I always think of when referencing space. We are told, in Genesis 1:16, “God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”
My encouragement tonight is that God created a vast universe for us to explore and take care of as stewards. My prayer is that we will always remember how fragile our small earth is in the scheme of things and how important it is that we protect this world that was created as a nest for us by the Creator of everything! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…