How Armstrong and Aldrin were nearly stranded on the moon

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How Armstrong and Aldrin were nearly stranded on the moon

July 20, 2022 - Dr. Jim Denison

This detail of a July 20, 1969 photo made available by NASA shows astronaut Neil Armstrong reflected in the helmet visor of Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon. The astronauts had a camera mounted to the front of their suits, according to the Universities Space Research Association. So rather than holding the camera up to his eye, as we’re accustomed to, Armstrong would have taken the photos from near his chest, which is where Armstrong’s hands appear to be in his reflection. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)

This detail of a July 20, 1969 photo made available by NASA shows astronaut Neil Armstrong reflected in the helmet visor of Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon. The astronauts had a camera mounted to the front of their suits, according to the Universities Space Research Association. So rather than holding the camera up to his eye, as we’re accustomed to, Armstrong would have taken the photos from near his chest, which is where Armstrong’s hands appear to be in his reflection. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)

Unfortunately, the American League defeated the National League in last night’s nine-inning All-Star Game. I say “unfortunately” because, like millions of baseball fans, I was hoping for a tie after nine innings. If that had happened, a new tiebreaking Home Run Derby would have decided the contest. Three players from each league would have taken three swings apiece to determine the final result. That would have made history.

Of course, little could compare with the history that was made on this day in 1969 when Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. soon joined him. Here’s a perilous part of the story you may not know, however.

Following their moonwalk, Armstrong and Aldrin discovered that a one-inch engine arm circuit breaker switch had broken off an instrument panel. This breaker was needed to send electrical power to the ascent engine that would lift the two off the moon. The broken switch was reported to Mission Control, but its experts had not identified a solution by the next morning. Without a fix, the two men would have been stranded on the moon.

Aldrin thought a felt-tipped pen in the shoulder pocket of his suit might replace the broken switch. He wrote later: “Sure enough, the circuit breaker held. We were going to get off the moon, after all. To this day I still have the broken circuit breaker switch and the felt-tipped pen I used to ignite our engines.”

Now these items are going up for auction and have a sale estimate of between $1 million and $2 million.

Why Putin thinks he’s winning

History is made in famous and infamous ways.

For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Iran yesterday, meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi. Putin is seeking to strengthen military and economic ties with Tehran, while Turkey’s leader wants to broker settlement talks for the Russia–Ukraine conflict and to help unblock Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

According to Tatiana Stanovaya, a scholar who writes about Russian domestic and foreign policy, Putin thinks he’s winning the conflict in Ukraine. In her analysis, his first goal is to control the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine, a military result he believes is inevitable over time.

His second goal is for Kyiv and Western-aligned leaders in Ukraine to capitulate. He thinks that in one or two years their country will be exhausted by the war, unable to function normally, and profoundly demoralized. At that point, he expects a movement to end the war that will oust the Zelensky administration and bring the country into Russia’s orbit.

Stanovaya writes that Putin’s third goal is to build a new world order. In her view, he believes the traditional political elites ruling Western countries are overlooking genuine national interests and are incapable of strategic thinking. He expects nationally oriented leaders such as Viktor Orban in Hungary and Marine Le Pen in France to rise up, break with the old order, and fashion a new one. In this new world order, the West would become friendly to Russia, granting Putin’s security demands and accommodating his vision of a Russian empire for the twenty-first century.

Stanovaya calls this scenario “wishful to the point of impossible” and warns, “sooner or later, Mr. Putin will face reality. It is in that moment, when his plans are stymied and his disappointment high, that he is likely to be most dangerous.”

“Let us not grow weary of doing good”

Baseball games are played because no one knows the winner beforehand. A nation’s best aeronautical engineers can fail to anticipate a tiny problem that could produce a historic disaster. No one can be sure how or when the conflict in Ukraine will end.

The good news is that our sovereign Lord sees the future better than we see the present and calls us to trust him for his best: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

However, this famous promise is preceded by a vital condition: “The one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (v. 8). As biblical scholar William Hendrickson explains, the phrase “sows to the Spirit” means “to allow the Holy Spirit to have his way.” Such a person “walks” by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) and is led by him (Ephesians 5:18).

When we are thus yielded to God’s Spirit, we will experience God’s power to persevere in God’s purposes and “in due season we will reap.”

“Imagine yourself as a living house”

This week we’ve been discussing ways to trust the will of God in uncertain times. Today, let’s embrace the fact that God leads all who will follow and gives his best to those who leave the choice with him.

There are many ways to follow our Father. Our Creator has made us as we are and invites us to walk with him in ways that are consistent with our personality, experiences, and spiritual temperament. (For nine practical ways to experience God, please see my latest book review, “Two reflections on ‘Sacred Pathways’ by Gary Thomas.”)

The key is complete trust in our Father and complete submission to his purposes for us. C. S. Lewis illustrates this fact in one of the most famous passages in Mere Christianity:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to?

“The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but he is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself.”

Who is building your “house” today?

NOTE: For more on leaving a legacy that matters, please see my latest blog, “Finding the Rosetta Stone and putting your face on a superhero toy.” Also, I share several spiritual reflections each weekday on Twitter and invite you to follow me here.

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