It's common for people who believe in the power of prayer to call out to God in times of suffering, moments of excitement and during experiences that create fear or anxiety. Considering the wide array of situations in which prayers are invoked, it should be no surprise that for among astronauts who are venturing into the unknown, prayer is a common occurrence.
In a new CNN article entitled, "The Surprising History of Prayer in Space," Thom Patterson writes about the rich -- yet surprising -- history that human beings have with prayer in orbit. It all began in 1968 when the crew of Apollo 8 became the first individuals to orbit the moon and read from the Bible (Genesis) during a live television broadcast to Earth (an atheist later sued NASA for allegedly violating the separation of church and state; the Supreme Court refused to hear the case). CNN continues:
Apollo 11 Col. Buzz Aldrin becomes the only person ever to receive Roman Catholic communion on the moon. He administers the sacrament himself while inside the lunar landing vehicle. Shortly afterward, Aldrin becomes the second human to set foot on the moon.
Watch and listen to the Genesis reading below:
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In 2005, Eileen Collins of the shuttle Discovery was likely feeling plenty of angst. She was commanding the first mission following 2003's deadly Columbia disaster. She, too, said a prayer -- this time for the seven Columbia crew members who perished during the tragedy.
Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a Muslim cosmonaut, prayed regularly aboard the International Space Station when ventured there for an 11-day stay. According to CNN:
Because the orbiting outpost goes through several "sunrises" daily, Islamic scholars must determine special rules regarding how to face Mecca and how many times to pray each day.
Below, watch for more information on his prayer experience:
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And, last but not least, this past March, Col. Eric Boe -- the pilot of Discovery -- led his team of astronauts in prayer before the group lifted off for its final mission.
Thus, prayer is an integral part of the lives of some astronauts. These brave individuals rely on their faith in space just as they would on Earth.