Today’s Illustration: Actually, There Was No Rescue Program

What:  Launching of Apollo 11 to the moon
8 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes, 35 seconds
Set foot on the moon, July 20, 1969

When:  July 16, 1969 launch / July 24, 1969 Splashdown

Who: Three United States Astronauts

Lunar Module Astronauts:
Neil Armstrong
Buzz Aldrin

Command Module Astronaut:
Michael Collins

Rescue Details:

  • If something went wrong, they had enough oxygen for about 75 hours.
  • There was no second rescue Saturn V rocket poised for a mission!
  • There was no second crew that was prepared for such a rescue mission.
  • If there was a rescue rocket and mission, it would take approximately 110 hours from launch to landing to get to the moon.
  • If the LM toppled over on descent or at any time, there was no way to leave the surface of the moon.
  • The lunar lander, equipped with an ascent rocket motor, was good for one attempt.  If it failed, there was no second try.
  • “President Nixon’s prepared speech upon failure: “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay to rest in peace. For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.”
  • The astronauts were welcomed back by President Nixon, who was aboard the USS Hornet.

√  Aldrin & Armstrong spent about 21 hours on the moon’s surface

√  “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” — Armstrong

“The Apollo 11 contingency speech came about weeks before the mission’s launch, when an Apollo 8 astronaut raised concerns at the White House about the possibility of disaster. That astronaut was either Frank Borman (according to Safire in a 1999 New York Times article) or Bill Anders (according to former NASA chief historian Roger Launius).

The Apollo 8 astronaut was particularly worried about what could happen if the astronauts were stranded on the surface, Launius told “It’s one thing to die in a blaze of glory in an explosion, and it’s another if you [slowly] run out of oxygen,” he explained.

The contingency speech didn’t receive widespread attention until after Jim Mann, then a journalist for the Los Angeles Times, found a copy in the National Archives in 1998. Mann published a story about the speech in 1999, just in time for Apollo 11’s 30th anniversary, and Safire wrote a response in The New York Times the same year.

“I haven’t thought about that macabre planning for three decades,” wrote Safire, who died 10 years later, shortly after the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. Safire lamented that in the 17 years after Apollo 11, “we took space triumph for granted. Terrible risks were largely ignored — until the Challenger spacecraft blew up for all to see in classrooms and living rooms.”

. . . . . . . 

Key Biblical Concepts:

  • faith
  • believed
  • saved
  • human error
  • rescue
  • failure
  • risks
  • fear
  • life and death
  • contingency plan
  • rescue
  • stranded
  • helpless

Sermonic Ideas:

√  The astronauts were not frightened off by the risk.  They understood the risk and still went forward!  Likewise, David was not frightened off by the risk of facing Goliath.

√  Say not today or tomorrow we will do this or that.  Every day there are events that can go terribly wrong, and there is no human rescue plan that will or can extricate you.

√  They put their faith and trust in all the men and women behind them on the planet earth to get there and back.  If those people failed, they failed.  That is what it means to put your trust, your faith in something.

√  God never needs a backup rescue plan . . . . There is no second rocket on the launch pad . . . . no need for any speechwriters to explain and comfort the angels of heaven about what went wrong . . . . No one will be stranded. He will get you safely home!

√ The Lord will never put you in a place of life-threatening danger . . . (pause) . . . . . ALONE!

√ The truth of the matter, the Apollo program had no rescue program.  Everyone knew that long before the actual launching of Apollo 11.  The speech was written for that reality!  However, God’s rescue program was announced before the foundations of this world and announced in Genesis 3 . . . .

. . . . . . 

Other Information & Links:

Apollo 11 Splashdown 45 Years Ago on July 24, 1969 Concludes 1st Moon Landing Mission – Gallery

“The Apollo landings were incredibly risky – it’s truly astounding that out of the seven missions, there was only one failure (Apollo 13) – and that was recovered. The worst tragedy happened in a cabin fire during a practice session on the launchpad (Apollo 1) – the entire crew were killed and the entire program set back while lessons were learned.

The missions had very little in the way of recovery options if things went wrong – and certainly being stranded on the moon or in lunar orbit…or even in Earth orbit, for that matter – would have been a death sentence.

These days, our tolerance for risk in space missions has gone WAY down – but even so, the death rate among astronauts currently stands at about 5% per mission.” — Steve Baker

April 11 — Apollo 13 Mission “Houston, we have a problem  — 13:13 Houston, Texas time

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