How Traumatic Was a Trip to the Moon?


I’m thinking about trauma today. Pastors are entrusted with stories of trauma from parishioners, strangers, and colleagues. Domestic abuse. Combat. Incest. Terrorism. Fire.

Pastors (and educators, social workers, police officers, and medical professionals) hear a lot of difficult stories – at least if we are authentically open to hearing them.  And I don’t know if incidents of trauma are on the rise in the world or it’s just that people are more open to talking about their trauma, but all clergy – and anyone in people professions – need training in ACEs and in Trauma Informed Care.

Can you imagine how traumatic it was to fly to, land on, and return from the moon?

Edwin Aldrin has written about both his depression and addiction post-Apollo 11.  His friend astronaut Ed White had died three years before in a fire testing for Apollo 1 and so he ventured to the moon with the realization that it was a life-threatening mission. there was always the possibility that once they landed, they would not be able to leave.

Prior to Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong and his wife lost their two year daughter to brain cancer.  The fact that he had the internal strength to fly to the moon and back after such a trauma speaks of his fortitude.  Or maybe it speaks to his need to leave everything behind.

I wonder if Aldrin – a Presbyterian – and Armstrong – a Deist – ever talked with clergy about the spiritual ramifications of flying to the moon.  Did they even have the words to express what it was like?  Did they have secret conversations comparing soulful insights, especially since they shared an experience unknown to any other human being?

Part of the training to be an astronaut is resilience building.  Even though the slightest mistake could result in death, astronauts were chosen for their ability to remain calm in disasters and clear-headed in chaos.

Just as we who work with people need to learn how to care for the traumatized, we also need to learn how to build resilience and how to teach resilience to others.  I have a feeling that the world is going to become even more traumatizing in the coming years in terms of violence and climate change and bullying.  Life feels especially coarse and cruel.

But it’s humanly possible to achieve miraculous things in spite of trauma.  50 years ago, two human beings experienced something marvelous.  They walked on the freaking moon and lived to tell us about it.  Wow.

2 responses to “How Traumatic Was a Trip to the Moon?

  1. It has been a long time since I read it but Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff” gave some insight into all the trauma/hell that the astronaut wives went through. Going all the way back to when their husbands were fighter jocks and test pilots before they space program.


  2. Pingback: How Traumatic Was a Trip to the Moon? — A Church for Starving Artists | PHILOSOPHY IN THE MODERN WORLD

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