Nightfall at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum
Apollo 11 Moon Landing — 1969
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin navigated the lunar module they piloted, named the Eagle, down onto the surface of the moon. Within moments of their landing, Armstrong radioed NASA Mission Control in Houston, Texas, his now infamous message, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Soon afterwards, Armstrong made a more profound statement when he became the first person to set foot on the moon, saying, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Three years later, on July 20, 1972, the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, — the birthplace of Armstrong — opened its doors. Thirty-eight years later, in the summer of 2010, the museum celebrated the 41st anniversary of the moon landing via their first annual Summer Moon Festival. This occurred in July of 2010, and was held in collaboration with the City of Wapakoneta. Then, fast forwarding to July 19 – 21, 2018, a time that marks the ninth year of the moon festival, we now find ourselves commemorating the 49th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. And if past celebrations predict future ones, it goes without saying that the 50th anniversary of the moon landing promises to be a special event.
Regarding Neil Armstrong
Many who knew Armstrong characterized him as the reluctant hero who only wanted to serve his country (NASA, 2012). Indeed, he shied away from the limelight, and after his career at NASA, enjoyed a short tenure teaching aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati, but he always remained humble. In fact, Armstrong never had any part in the museum that bears his name.
Armstrong’s Famous Walk
History indeed offers much perspective on Armstrong’s famous first steps on the lunar surface. What follows is an excerpt from the book From Beirut to Jerusalem by author and columnist Thomas L. Friedman (1991):
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 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 archeologist, “I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the moon.”
The Exchange between the Astronaut and the Archeologist
Considering Armstrong’s reclusive nature, it is quite amazing that the exchange between Armstrong and Ben-Dov was ever captured in the annals of history. Even more remarkable is how we came to know of it, as if we were there alongside Armstrong in Jerusalem touring the Temple Mount and listening in on him questioning Ben-Dov. But, most importantly, rather than getting a potentially biased opinion about the first moon walk appearing in an op-ed piece somewhere from some pundit, we can directly credit Armstrong himself as the one offering such a candid viewpoint on his own first steps.
Like all of us, Armstrong was not perfect. Only one man in the course of history was perfect, and that was Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, we learn that Christ Himself knew no sin so that He could bear our sins.
What about the Moon?
What is the origin and purpose of the moon? This question was the topic of a presentation given by Professor George Matzko of Bob Jones University on August 21, 2017, during the total solar eclipse (click here to watch or listen to Dr. Matzko’s presentation).
The Moon’s Origin
Simply put, we need to look no further than Genesis 1:14 to discover the moon’s origin and purpose. Moreover, Dr. Matzko advocated that the moon in and of itself “provides us with one of our strongest arguments for creation.” However, because evolutionary constructs attempting to explain the moon’s origin are so prevalent, Dr. Matzko further offered several remarks on the history of such theories, including their downfalls.
Dr. Matzko began with a discussion of fission theory, a defunct theory today. This theory described the moon as being “scooped out” of the earth from a location thought to be where the Pacific Ocean is today. According to Dr. Matzko, however, fission theory specifically gave us three major problems.
- First, the earth would need to be moving ten times faster than it is right now. In other words, there has never been enough turning energy, known as angular momentum, in what is known as the Earth-Moon system.
- Second, the moon would need to pass through the Roche limit (i.e., 10,000 miles from Earth’s surface). The moon passing through this limit would break apart and leave us with a ring of debris orbiting the earth instead of a moon in orbit due to differences in tidal forces at the 10,000-mile mark.
- Finally, moon rocks brought back to the earth from the Apollo missions consist of major composition differences compared to earth rocks. For example, there is much less iron found in moon rocks than found in the rocks of the earth.
When fission theory was abandoned, capture theory came into vogue. Proponents of capture theory claimed there was a “wandering moon” captured by Earth’s gravity. Professor Matzko explained that the main problem with capture theory is its difficulty in describing why the moon is roughly five percent away from having a perfectly circular orbit around the earth.
After fission theory and capture theory, condensation theory became prevalent. Proponents of condensation theory claimed that dust and debris circling the earth coalesced to turn into the moon. However, Dr. Matzko explained how this theory ultimately had difficulty in describing why we ended up with just one moon orbiting Earth, and not many moons.
Today, the dominant theory for the origin of the moon is collision theory (referred to as the “Big Whack”). The theory puts forward that a large Mars-sized object called Theia collided with the earth, partially annihilating both objects. This action led to the remaining fragment of Theia orbiting the earth in conjunction with a large debris field. During this collision’s aftermath, the earth coalesced back into its spherical shape, and the orbiting fragment of Theia out in the debris field spun into the spherical-shaped moon as we know it. However, Professor Matzko raised several specific problems with collision theory:
- First, where did this large object come from?
- Second, how did the moon’s orbit become nearly circular?
- Third, computer simulations showed there was a problem with angular momentum and the speed of the earth. To attempt to solve this problem, the proponents of collision theory built two “whacks” by the alleged Mars-sized object into their computer simulations, and not just one.
- Fourth, at some point in time lunar recession over the evolutionary notion of billions of years would result in the moon being within the Roche limit, a situation that would break up the moon due to the resulting tidal forces. Similar to the issue with fission theory, the effects of this phenomenon produces a ring of orbiting material around the earth rather than the spherical moon.
Despite these theories, Professor Matzko went on to describe, rather intriguingly, that evolutionists today realize there is still a problem in explaining the origin of the moon within the confines of evolutionary constructs. Most recently, for example, there was an issue raised concerning similarities in oxygen isotope content found in the Earth’s crust and on the moon. The issue arose because there should be no similarity if Theia came from a different part of the solar system, as is proposed.
Because of the failure of each of the previous theories, in early 2017, another theory on the moon’s evolutionary origin called the multiple impact theory came on the scene. According to Dr. Matzko, multiple impact theory describes multiple small-sized objects striking the earth, but these strikes are thought of as several events occurring as singular impacts over time. Therefore, with each event, debris is ejected into orbit. Subsequently, each event forms a mini moon. Over time all the mini moons somehow merge into one mighty moon. Proponents of this theory say that computer simulations will result in the right oxygen isotope content, but as Professor Matzko recounted, this situation will happen just “twenty percent of the time.”
In reality, the moon is a wonderfully remarkable thing.
The Moon’s Purpose
According to Genesis 1, the purpose of the moon is three-fold:
- A light source that helps divide day from night
- A light source for signs, for seasons, and for days and years
- To provide light for the earth
And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon
– Deuteronomy 33:14 (KJV)
The Moon’s Importance in Agriculture
Apart from several biblical references that mentioned the moon’s importance to seasons and agriculture, Professor Matzko cited scholarly articles that describe the moon’s effect on protein content in certain grains. Interestingly, without the moon, protein production within certain types of grain would apparently not occur.
Remark: Though not listed by Dr. Matzko, the light the moon provides throughout its full-moon phase in mid-September or mid-October, known as the Harvest Moon, is worth mentioning. This light was especially important for early agricultural societies that needed a source of light to reap their fields by late into the evening hours of the fall harvest. In fact, there were many early cultures that relied on celestial observations to make a lunar calendar to mark the seasons (Struik, 1987). (Please click here for our recent blog that touched on the importance of astronomical observatories, including a passing comment on ancient agricultural societies.)
The Moon’s Fascinating Effect on the Four Seasons
If you have ever wondered if there really is a discrete, purposeful influence by the moon on our seasons, you might be interested to know that the moon has an incredibly stabilizing effect on Earth’s tilt. Professor Matzko noted that our seasons are directly impacted by this well-balanced tilt.
Professor Matzko’s entire presentation contains many entertaining and interesting anecdotes, and is well worth your time to watch or listen to (click here).
Could you consider yourself in a role that helps improve our understanding of the Earth-Moon system?
Starting out now on your very own discovery of the intricacies of God’s creation through scientific study might very well help you in discerning what path you should take in the future. Christian scholarship extending into professional roles — from astronauts, astronomers, and physicists to mathematicians and engineers — is sincerely needed in education and culture.
For further reading:
Astronaut on Creation—a telling interview with Colonel Jack Lousma, a veteran of Skylab
The Work of His Hands—a book by Colonel Jeffrey Williams, a veteran of the International Space Station
An Astronaut’s Perspective on Creation—an interview with Captain Barry Wilmore, a veteran pilot of two Space Shuttle missions (and one stay aboard the International Space Station)
Information on the Earth-Moon system can be obtained from Encyclopedia Britannica.
Maybe one of the writing prompts for our creation science writing contest was developed specifically for you!
We invite you to discover the writing prompts and entry rules/guidelines for our creation science writing contest (see the essay contests web page, and please feel free to download the page’s printer friendly version). Look for topics dealing with cosmology and mathematics, or view our introductory question that ultimately helps to take you down the path to particle physics or medicine.
Friedmand, T.L. (1991). From Beirut to Jerusalem. New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.
Matzko, G. (Professor). (2017, August 21). The origin and purpose of the moon from the Bible and science [Webcast]. Eclipse Experience. Retrieved from https://livestream.com/BJU/eclipse/videos/162607441.
NASA. (2012, August 25). Neil Armstrong 1930-2012. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/topics/people/features/armstrong_obit.html.
Struik, D.J. (1987). A concise history of mathematics. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.