In July this year, as part of its archive project, the Irish Times published the front page from it’s edition of July 21 1969, the morning after the moon landings. Normally I only scan these reprinted pages but this one made fascinating reading.
I realised that whilst I’m familiar with the headline stories and events of the day, it’s the tiny details that I know nothing about – the wee colour stories that add texture to live and almost-live reporting. Like the piece headlined ‘Communion Bread is Taken to Moon’.
Apparently Buzz Aldrin, a Presbyterian Elder, packed a piece of communion bread to use on the moon to symbolise fellowship with the members of his home church in Houston, TX. Back home then, when the communion bread was brought out on the Sunday, a portion of the bread was missing and the Minister explained that Aldrin would ‘join’ them during one of his rest periods.
Meanwhile in the White House, a religious service attended by Nixon read the first 12 verses of Genesis (a bit hackneyed I thought and obviously press managed).
Interestingly, the reprinted first page also carried a story from Castelgandolfo in which Pope Paul urged the world not forget that war and hunger should not be forgotten in the race to conquer space. He said,
In the ecstasy of this prophetic day – a real triumph for man – means for the domination of the universe (sic) – we must not forget man’s need to dominate himself. Three conflicts are raging on the earth (Vietnam, Nigeria and the Middle East) and a fourth had flared between El Salvador and Honduras. Hunger still afflicts entire populations. What would be the true progress of man if these misfortunes persist and worsen?
The universe is opening before us its mute, mysterious face, framed by innumerable centuries and unmeasured spaces…The admiration, the enthusiasm, the passion for instruments, for the products of man’s ingenuity and his hand fascinates us perhaps even to the point of madness. And here lies the danger – from this possible worship of instruments we must guard ourselves…It is absolutely necessary that the heart of man should become freer, better, more religious, as the power of his machines, his weapons, his instruments becomes greater and more dangerous.’
Quite a poetic and prophetic alternative voice (albeit a gender specific one!) in the midst of what was a frenzy I’m sure.
And of course there was the Irish ancestry story – apparently Michael Collins’ wife’s father was from Mayo. No mention of Collins himself.