Lecture 4: The Moon and Religion (Our Moon Course)

Hello everyone, in this lecture I want to
consider some of the connections the Moon has with religion. Last time we discussed the famous Earthrise
picture taken by the crew of Apollo 8. The Apollo 8 mission has a connection to religion
but before we consider that let’s take a look at the trajectory flown by Apollo 8.
This may help you better appreciate the Earthrise picture when you know the path of the Apollo
8 spacecraft. First step was to launch into Earth orbit.
The second step was to orbit the Earth for some time to make sure everything was functioning
as expected. The third step was to fire their engine and get away from the Earth. If you
listen to NASA recordings, you may hear this step described using the phrase “TLI”
or “trans-lunar injection.” When close to the Moon, they fired their engine to get
captured by the Moon’s gravity and to go into orbit around the Moon. They first went
behind the Moon and they captured the famous Earthrise picture as they were coming around.
Step 5 was to conduct observations of the Moon in lunar orbit. Next they fired their
engine to break away from the Moon’s gravity and headed back towards the Earth. The last
step was landing back on Earth. The whole mission lasted for about 6 days, with 20 hours
of that time being spent orbiting the Moon. Note that AS-503 is the internal designation
for the Apollo 8 mission. “A” is for the Apollo spacecraft, “S” is for the Saturn
rocket, “5” is for the Saturn V and “03” is the third mission of the AS-500 series
of launches. This is a letter written by Simon Bourgin
to Frank Borman. I’m not sure what Simon’s role was in the mission but Frank Borman was
the mission’s commander. The letter says: Dear Frank: I have given a lot of thought to what you
might say. I think it would be a mistake for me to write a script, or to anticipate in
advance what you will see and feel. What you say has to be all Frank Borman. The telecast on Christmas eve should basically
contain what you see and what you feel (about what you are seeing), and it should wind up
with a quotation, about which more in a moment. Nothing about the transcendental significance
of all of it, or about Christmas eve and peace on Earth. As for what you see and feel, I think these
suggestions will help steer you into what you want to say, but again only if your instinct
would take you into these areas anyway. Everybody knows what the moon looks like from
the Earth, but not how Earth looks from the moon. Describe it briefly, and compare it. 2. Compare you emotional reaction to orbiting
the moon, to your previous experience in orbiting the Earth. What strikes you most about the
moon. I remember your telling audiences on the Far East tour that if Mars was “the
red planet” to astronomers, that the Earth, which was bathed in beautiful blue, could
be “the blue planet” to people in space. Is it? Also, if the moon to Earth-bound people
is a piece of cheese or a sliver of silver, what is the moon to an astronaut viewing it
from orbit. 3. Viewing the moon’s surface with the detachment
of a scientist, just as you have so observed the Earth from orbit, what do you see. 4. As you orbit the moon and observe the Earth
one-quarter million miles away, does the fact that this faraway planet holds all the things
that are dear to you, have any special impact at the moment. 5. As you gaze at the distant planet Earth,
you are aware that at this very moment each of its three and one-half billion inhabitants
who has any knowledge of your mission-regardless of wealth, race, tongue, culture, national
loyalty, politics, or religious affiliation-is thinking of you and your two companions. 6. In fact, when ever before, on Christmas
eve, has so much of mankind focused on a single event, and perhaps
with total unanimity been prayerfully with three far-away men. After you have addressed yourself to these
areas, (and I would save some of if for the second telecast on the ninth orbit,) about
the only thing I can think of to match the majesty of the occasion, and the evening,
is to read the opening lines of Genesis. These lines are Christian the world over in the
very real sense of the word, and I think would sound the universal appeal and sense of reverence
that is called for. You would be reading them while looking up
at the Earth from the moon. You could switch to them by saying something like, “I would
now like to read you the opening sentences of the Holy Scripture.” In the beginning God created the heaven and
the earth. And the earth was without form, and void;
and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face
of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there
was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and
God divided the light from the darkness. 5. And God called the light Day, and the darkness
he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide
the waters from the waters. 7. And God made the firmament, and divided
the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament:
and it was so. 8. And God called the firmament Heaven. And
the evening and the morning were the second day.
9. And God said, let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place,
and let the dry land appear: and it was so. 10. And God called the dry land Earth; and
the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. I would close with, “Good night, good luck,
a Merry Christmas, and God bless you all-all of you on the good Earth.” That ends the
broadcast. Even though this is the Old Testament, and
Christmas eve is identified with the New Testament, these words would, I think, be the most appropriate,
most moving, and most welcome for the occasion. But only if you yourself feel completely comfortable
in saying them. I have the feeling that any direct message
that you might compose reflecting on Christmas eve, conditions on Earth, and the way you
feel about it at the moon, could get awfully sticky; it would be difficult not to sound
pretentious or patronizing. On the other hand, there simple words from the Bible spoken feelingly
and imply by you could only be accepted as a sincere expression of one human being to
his fellows, and truly reflect the humility that the occasion must register. You could,
by the way, take with you either a tiny edition of the Bible, or simply the opening page torn
loose. Do phone me when you get this, and if it doesn’t
fit I will try again. All the best, Frank. Yours, Simon Bourgin This is another letter written by Simon Bourgin
to Frank Borman. The date is not shown on the letter but from the contents of the letter
it appears to me to have been written after the first letter. The letter says: Dear Frank, I am glad you intend to go with the Genesis
quote: I am sure it fits. But I have been doing some more thinking about
this, and would like to make these suggestions: With six television transmissions, you are
overexposed. There isn’t that much to see, and with that much time you could be tempted
to pad, ham it up, or try to entertain. Avoid all of these. While you can’t alter the
number of telecasts, the one thing you can do is to keep them short. In other words:
keep your audience hungry. Keep your comments short and simple, and cut off when you have
no more to say. The two most important telecasts are the one
after arrival at the moon, at 7:26 EST Dec. 24, when you describe man’s first close-up
of the moon and how the Earth looks from the moon; and at 9:31 p.m. EST Christmas eve.
I would devote the whole of the morning broadcast to a trained observer’s description of what you see, and what if feels
like. No other comments-on the “one-world” thing, Christmas, or anything else; it doesn’t
belong on a morning broadcast, and would dilute the effect that night. (But don’t let this
inhibit you from adding any color or subjective comment, such as: “One thing it (THE MOON)
doesn’t look like is a piece of cheese.”) I would keep this telecast relatively short;
it will add to the public’s anticipation of your coming on that night. 3. The telecast on Christmas Eve should wind
up with the Genesis quote, plus the closing line (“Good-night”), which you already
have. However, I would work into your descriptive comment early in the show this line: “As
the first ambassadors of mankind to the environs of the moon, we just wish that the dream of
peace and hope for mankind that was born tonight, could be made real.” (Do not in any case
try to sandwich it in after the Genesis quote; you can’t top the Bible.) You may want to
work in another comment to this effect: “Looking at the Earth, which is about the size of a basketball
from here, it’s hard to believe it has always been torn by dissension and conflicts.” I have thought better since of your using
in full the comments I read to you on the phone Sunday, and which are contained in my
second letter. They could sound forced and artificial. Also, the astronauts are respected
for being non-political and having no axe to grind, while your privileged position on
Christmas eve, with the entire world your captive audience, almost forbids preaching
a viewpoint. What you say that is in your heart, and comes out naturally, is something
else again. So, whatever extracurricular comments you make: don’t be preachy, say it in your
own way, say what has universal appeal, and cut out when you are through saying it. 4. With regard to the Genesis quotation, and
this is important, read it slowly. It has to be read slowly over the air to be properly
understood. You might try reading it a couple of times aloud on the ground for proper cadence.
Say it naturally, but slowly. 5. If you do talk about “one world” or
“peace”, limit yourself to saying each once. More than that, for an astronaut addressing
the world from the moon, adds up to soapboxing. 6. I still think it would be a mistake to
do the Christmas tree thing. It would be the counterpart of the placards and gags on the
last mission, and inevitably lead to unfunny or forced quips between group control and
spacecraft. It doesn’t belong, and you will find that you and your colleagues will be
esteemed for sticking strictly to the business of the mission. (The kids are going to be
rooting for you anyway, and will have plenty to entertain them back at home.) 7. Never say: “Words fail me,” or: “What
we’re looking at is beyond description.” Just describe what you see, or how you feel. 8. You may want to comment, at the moon, on
two aspects of an astronaut’s work: the difference in speed between orbiting the Earth
and the moon (“We’re poking along on this slow bus”), if it’s true that one travels
much more swiftly in Earth orbit; and whether while circling
the moon you are personally disappointed that you aren’t going to be the first men to
land there (so near and yet so far). 9. Except for Christmas eve, don’t be afraid
to use a little humor (I know you won’t). You might lead off with, “A funny thing
happened to us on the way to the moon—”, and then tell about something since the last
telecast, like food floating out of reach, or one of you not quite getting dressed by
the next telecast. Don’t be afraid to say, “the moon looks exactly as it did in our
simulators,” or, if it is that way, that the first look was disappointing. 10. Avoid “man on the moon” comments. But listing all of these strictures is kind
of silly: I’m sure your good sense and taste would take you through all of this entirely
without outside advice. Best, Si This is a video of the live broadcast that
Apollo 8 did from the Moon on December 24th, 1968. At the time, this broadcast was estimated
to have had the largest TV audience in history. A commemorative postage stamp in the United
States is shown on the right. William Anders: We are now approaching lunar
sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we
would like to send to you. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And
the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And
the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light:
and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light
from the darkness. James Lovell: And God called the light Day,
and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide
the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were
under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And
God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. Frank Borman: And God said, Let the waters
under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and
it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called
the Seas: and God saw that it was good. And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good
night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good
Earth. After the Apollo 8 mission, Madalyn Murray
O’Hair sued NASA for reading from Genesis since she considered it to be a violation
of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Madalyn used to live in Baltimore, Maryland
and she previously had sued the Baltimore Public School System because she didn’t
think it was right that her son was asked to read the Bible in public school. Her case
and a few others were combined into one Supreme Court case called Abington School District
v. Schempp. In 1963, the United States Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 that school-sponsored Bible
reading in public schools is unconstitutional. However, her Apollo 8 case was rejected by
the Supreme Court due to the lack of jurisdiction. Before we move on from Apollo 8, I just want
to point out that if you are in Chicago you can check out the Apollo 8 Command Module
at the Museum of Science and Industry. At the time of Apollo 11 in July, 1969, Madalyn’s
case against NASA was ongoing. So NASA asked the crew to be “general” in their comments.
Buzz Aldrin, the Lunar Module Pilot, stated the following over the radio. “This is the
LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever
and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few
hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.” He then took Communion off air. Buzz Aldrin
at the time attended Webster Presbyterian Church, just outside of Houston, Texas. The
church still celebrates Lunar Communion Sunday in July to commemorate the Apollo 11 mission. Now I would like to switch to looking at the
Moon’s connection to some of the religions in the world. The story of creation is discussed
in the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible. Verses 14 through 16 states, “And God said,
“Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and
let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights
in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great
lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.
He also made the stars.” The Moon isn’t named but it’s implied that the “lesser
light” is the Moon. On the right is a painting by Michelangelo
from the 1500s depicting the creation story. In the painting God is shown on the right
with his left hand on the Moon. Easter is a Christian holiday celebrating
the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Since the process of determining the date of Easter
each year is dependent on the specific denomination or church, I have listed it here somewhat
generally as the Sunday following a full Moon in spring. One of the dates in the upcoming
year is April 12th, 2020. I have included two works of art depicting
the resurrection of Jesus. In Islam, one of the stories in the Quran
is Muhammad splitting the Moon. On the right is a painting from the 16th century that shows
this event. I have also included two English translations of the part in the Quran that
mentions the splitting of the Moon. One translation states, “The Hour has drawn near, and the
moon has split.” The other translation states, “The Hour (of Judgment) is nigh, and the
moon is cleft asunder.” Ramadan is a month of fasting, prayer, and
reflection in Islam. It’s on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and goes from one
crescent Moon to the next. We’ll discuss lunar calendars in a moment. The upcoming
Ramadan is from April 23rd to May 23rd, 2020. Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated
by a number of religions in the early fall coinciding with a new Moon. The next Diwali
is on October 27th, 2019. Shown are two images of Diwali celebrations. Vesak is the celebration of the birth, enlightenment,
and death of Gautama Buddha. It’s typically celebrated on the first full Moon in May.
The next Vesak in on May 7th, 2020. On the left is Vesak in Indonesia and on the
right in Sri Lanka. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and it’s
celebrated 163 days after the first day of Passover on a new Moon. The next Rosh Hashanah
takes place from September 29th to October 1st, 2019. Shown on the left are traditional food consumed
on Rosh Hashanah and on the right is a painting depicting people praying by flowing water. Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the full
Moon of the 15th day of the 8th month. The next Mid-Autumn Festival takes place on September
13th, 2019. Shown on the left is a Mid-Autumn Festival
celebration in Singapore. In the middle is a painting of Chang’e, whose story we discussed
two lectures ago. Also, one of the traditional food consumed during this holiday is Mooncake
as shown on the right. At this time I’d like for you to take a
few minutes to explore the Moon’s connection with religion on your own. Is there something
that you can find that is particularly interesting to you? Now I would like to switch topics a bit to
discuss one reason the Moon is very prominent in religion. As we have already seen, a number
of religious holidays are determined by phases of the Moon. Before we go further I would
like for you to put these Moon phases in order starting from the New Moon. I’ll give you
a hint that the New Moon is C, so please start with C and try to figure out which phases
would come after that during a month. Here are the phases of the Moon in the correct
order. Did you get the phases in this order? Ok, now since we have the phases of the Moon
in the correct order. Can you name all of the phases of the Moon? Here are the names of the phases of the Moon.
You don’t necessarily have to memorize these names but it’s convenient to have when describing
the phases. Now let’s take a closer look at the lunar
calendar. Here I’m showing a drawing of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun as well
as the Moon’s orbit around the Earth. Please note that this drawing isn’t to scale but
it will get the main point across. Let’s consider what is the period of the Moon? That
is to say what is the time required for the Moon to go around the Earth once? If you look up the Moon’s orbit, you will
notice that two periods are listed. One is called the sidereal period of the Moon, which
is a little over 27 days. The other is called the synodic period of the Moon, which is about
29 and a half days. This diagram illustrates the difference between
the two periods of the Moon. Let’s consider the sidereal period first. The sidereal period
of the Moon is the time that it takes to go all the way around and come back to the same
location of it’s orbit. In the diagram, the Moon starts off directly to the right
of the Earth. So it takes a little over 27 days for the Moon to orbit the Earth and come
back to the same spot. Notice though that in 27 days, the Earth would have moved forward
in its orbit around the Sun. In the beginning, the Moon would have started with a full Moon
phase. Would it be a full Moon in the second location after about 27 days? The answer is
no, since as you can see, the Moon isn’t aligned with the Sun as it was in the beginning.
It takes about two more days to get to that location, in which case it will again have
a full Moon phase. As such that is the reason why the synodic period is a little longer
than the sidereal period. Since we directly observe the phases of the Moon, typically
the 29.5 day period is what people talk about and also use for lunar calendars. Say you were living a long time ago and had
to create a calendar based on the Moon. By observing the phases of the Moon you probably
figured out that the Moon takes about 29 or 30 days to go from say a full Moon to the
next full Moon. So you would come up with a calendar that had 6 months with 29 days
and 6 months with 30 days. In that case, how many days would the year have? The year would
have 354 days. Since the Earth takes a bit more time, 11 more days, to make a full orbit
around the Sun over time you would notice that the seasons would shift as the years
passed. For example, if your first month was in the spring, after a few years you would
notice that the first month no longer corresponded with the spring season. There are several
ways of dealing with this. One is to add a month when you accumulate enough extra days
to make its own month. Another is to use a solar calendar instead of a lunar calendar.
Nevertheless, I hope you appreciate how early on it was sensible to base the calendar on
the Moon since you could easily figure out the approximate date of the month by looking
at the phase of the Moon.

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