July 20, 2019 | David F. Coppedge

Space Pioneers Who Trusted in God

The mainstream media try to present science and technology as fields owned by evolutionists. Not true.

On this day of celebration for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, it’s worthwhile to remember the Christians and creationists who contributed to the success of the space program. Undoubtedly a large percentage of workers at all levels believed in God and trusted His word. Here are some noteworthy examples.

Henry Richter was a spacecraft pioneer and rocket scientist before NASA was formed, and took an integral role in Explorer 1 (1958) and the development of the Deep Space Network. His work led directly to the Ranger and Surveyor programs that were essential steps to the moon landings. He became a Christian and creationist in subsequent years after his epochal work at JPL work. He wrote about his faith in God as Creator and Christ as Savior with the assistance of CEH editor David Coppedge in his book, Spacecraft Earth: A Guide for Passengers. See our biography of Richter, who turned 92 years old in June, meaning he has witnessed the entire space program to date, from Earth orbit to Pluto and beyond, after helping lay its foundations in the late 1950s.

“Surveyor III, I Presume?” Apollo 12 astronauts walk from the LM over to JPL’s lander left 3 years earlier. Art by Alan Bean, who was there.

Wernher von Braun is perhaps the greatest rocket scientist of all. He dreamed of space travel since childhood, but was caught in Hitler’s regime after working on rocketry to advance that dream. Hitler took over his work for evil purposes, to bomb London, but the V-2 rockets were largely inconsequential. After escaping Nazi Germany, he surrendered his whole team and expertise to the Americans and became an American citizen, using his rockets for peaceful exploration of space. His masterpiece, the Saturn V rocket, launched the Apollo astronauts to the moon. His work was also vital for launching spacecraft to all the planets in the solar system. Receiving Christ during the stress of Apollo preparations through the witness of a friend using a Gideon Bible, von Braun actively argued in favor of creation and the historicity of Jesus Christ’s atoning work. He was heard praying the Lord’s Prayer during the launch of Apollo 11. Read our biography of von Braun.

“One Giant Leap” by Alan Bean.

Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon, was a man of few words, and did not talk much about his personal beliefs. According to an article on World Magazine, he “once called himself a deist,” but we don’t know when or for how long. All we can find is an anecdote reported by Thomas L. Friedman, in his book From Beirut to Jerusalem, that points to a degree of Christian faith beyond deism. Sometime after Apollo 11, Armstrong was in Israel, touring Jerusalem’s Old City. GoodReads includes this quotation from the book:

“When American astronaut Neil Armstrong, a devout Christian, visited Israel after his trip to the moon, he was taken on a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem by Israeli archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov. When they got to the Hulda Gate, which is at the top of the stairs leading to the Temple Mount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had stepped anywhere around there. “I told him, ‘Look, Jesus was a Jew,’” recalled Ben-Dov. “These are the steps that lead to the Temple, so he must have walked here many times.” Armstrong then asked if these were the original steps, and Ben-Dov confirmed that they were. “So Jesus stepped right here?” asked Armstrong again. “That’s right,” answered Ben-Dov. “I have to tell you,” Armstrong said to the Israeli archaeologist, “I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the moon.”

Buzz Aldin, Apollo 11 astronaut and second to stand on the moon, wanted to honor Christ on his historic mission. With his Presbyterian pastor’s help, he decided his first act after the landing would be to celebrate communion. This story is recounted by Illustra Media in a short film (see our entry from 5 July 2019). On the return trip, Aldrin also read from Psalm 8:3-4.

Charlie Duke, capsule communicator (CAPCOM) for Apollo 11, spoke to Armstrong and Aldrin from Houston during the tense moments of the moon landing. He later walked on the moon himself during Apollo 16 (April 1972). Duke and his wife had been nominal Christians, but years after Apollo, he followed his wife in full commitment to Christ. His story was told in the July 20 issue of World Magazine.

Charlie Duke is one of 12 men who walked on the moon.

His Christian faith has also changed the way he thinks about what he saw in space nearly a half-century ago. In a scientific field devoted to the theory of evolution, Duke now believes what the Apollo 8 astronauts read from space: God created the heavens and the Earth.

“The evidence to me is overwhelming that there’s a Creator,” he says. “The orderliness in the universe and the physical laws that we experience—I see God’s hand in creation. That can’t happen by accident.” And he notes he’s seen with his own eyes what the Bible says in the book of Job: “He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing.”

James Irwin, Apollo 15 astronautJames Irwin, Apollo 15 astronaut, drove the first lunar rover on the moon with Dave Scott and brought back valuable rock samples from Hadley Rille. A vibrant Christian throughout his astronaut career, he quoted his life verse, Psalm 121:1, while on the moon. In the days following his mission, he founded the “High Flight Foundation” and spoke to many groups about his faith in God. His book, To Rule the Night, takes its title from Genesis 1:16-19 about God’s design for the moon. In later years, Irwin took part in archaeological adventures, looking for Noah’s Ark on Mt Ararat and for evidence of the Red Sea Crossing by the Israelites and Egyptians. Read our biography of James Irwin.

Dreams of space flight go back to Kepler. “Reaching for the Stars” by Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean.

To these could be added many founders of modern science whose work contributed directly or indirectly to the space program. See our biographies of these scientists at this site.

  • Nicolas Copernicus, whose heliocentric model made the planets places to explore.
  • Galileo Galilei, whose use of the telescope brought the planets into worlds of reality.
  • Johannes Kepler, whose theories of planetary motion gave engineers the tools to understand orbital motion.
  • Isaac Newton, whose work on gravitation led him to believe orbiting satellites would be possible.
  • James Clerk Maxwell, whose work on physics contributed to understanding of the planets.

Let not the media and secular science community ever portray the Apollo success, or that of the entire space program, as a product of secularism. Science is not owned by evolutionists who think the Stuff Happens Law can explain the Earth, the Moon, the sun, the solar system, the galaxy, or the universe. Science is a legacy of many who were motivated by the Biblical mandate to be stewards of the Earth. That required studying and understanding it. Many great scientists took Psalm 111:1-4 as their reason for being:

1 Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.

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