Posted by: T. Boyd | July 29, 2009

Orbiting the Moon

He never sleeps, He never slumbers
(Ps. 123:4, paraphrase & Take 6 song)

Recently, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the space mission,
Apollo 11, during which two of the astronauts landed on the Moon –
a goal set by President John Kennedy in 1961, and accomplished in
July 1969, an amazing achievement in just 8 years.

To me, however, the most heroic part of the Apollo program was the
rescue of the Apollo 13 crew after a near-fatal explosion occurred
on the Service Module that supplied oxygen and electricity to the
whole spacecraft. The 3-man crew moved to the Moon Landing Module
(the LM) to be used as a lifeboat.

The Mission Control crew in Houston scrambled to figure out how to
get the 3-man crew back to Earth safely. To get the ship onto the
“free-return-to-Earth” trajectory, they would have to correct the
course that had already been set for the landing on the Moon.
Unfortunately, the LM had limited instruments to set up for a “burn”
of the maneuvering jets to do the correction.

Maneuvering in space is weird. For example, if you were orbiting
Earth in the space shuttle and you wanted to dock with the space
station ahead of you, you cannot just speed up toward the target.
You actually have to drop into a lower orbit by “slowing down” and
let the orbital dynamics carry you ahead of the target, and then
you go back to the target’s orbit by “speeding up”.

Mission Control devised a way by using an alignment telescope on
board the LM to check to see if the spacecraft’s jets were pointed
in the correct direction. At 73:46 hours into the mission, loud
cheer erupted inside the LM as well as in Houston that the chosen
navigation star (our Sun) was exactly where it should appear in the
telescope .

The Mission Control Flight Director, G. Griffin, recalled his
exhilaration at that time: “My God, that’s the last hurdle – if we
can do that, I know we can make it.” (quote from here near the end)
After they swung around the Moon, they fired the jet for 5 minutes making it possible to make it back to Earth with a splash- down time of 142:54 hours.

If you have watched the movie, “Apollo 13”, you know that there was
much more going on during the 6 day mission. They managed to rig
up filters with tape and plastic to remove carbon dioxide. They had
to severely restrict water intake to have enough to last till
splashdown. And they had to turn off the heat to save electricity,
making it hard to sleep at the freezing temperature of the LM.

People all over the world were watching and praying. Tears of joy
were shed and many prayers of thanksgiving went up from all over
the Earth at the moment they were safely home. God “who watches
over you will not slumber. Indeed, He … never slumbers nor sleeps.”
(Ps. 121:3-4)

This article published in the Caroline Progress, 2009. Also “blogged” at


  1. via e-mail:

    that story (which i don’t know really well) has always fascinated me and moved me when i see/hear it – no matter how many times. thank you for the reminder i particularly needed today about the fact that God’s eye does not stop watching and searching. The Lord has used you today to encourage me and to cheer me on in the race. I gained strength and my faith took one more step up. Thank you! Bless you!

    rick h.

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