On July 26th 1971, excitement and expectation charged the air as my four children and I stood in the family viewing area at the Kennedy Space Center. We were waiting for the launch of Apollo 15.
The spacecraft towered 363 feet in the air and was poised like a colossal sentry. Inside the rocket capsule, waiting for the countdown to liftoff, was my husband Jim, (the lunar module pilot), with astronauts Alfred Worden and David Scott. They had each spent three years in training, and over 300 hours in simulators preparing for their trip to the moon. The success of their journey relied on their being prepared for emergencies or glitches which could shorten or terminate the mission.
As we waited, we could see that the gleaming white and black spacecraft was still attached to the gantry, and was emitting white vapors of liquid oxygen. Over the loud speakers, launch control began the final countdown – “10, 9, 8, ignition sequence start, engines on. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, all engines running, launch commence. Liftoff. We have liftoff.” With a tremendous earth- shaking and roaring, the Saturn V rocket engines began to build thrust. They spewed clouds of white and orange-gold smoke along the launch pad and high into the air.
Slowly the enormous rocket began to rise. The massive white-hot burn at its base blasted the rocket up and away from the launch pad, leaving a trail that grew longer as it rose in an arc above the immense curve of the earth. Higher and higher the rocket ascended, propelled toward space where it would reach orbital speed of over 18,000 mph. We continued to gaze upward, seeing only its dark shape rapidly diminishing in size as it disappeared into the clouds.
As I reflect on that incredible event, my thoughts turn to the scriptures that detail the time JESUS spent with His disciples. For three years He was with them day and night, teaching the uneducated fishermen the scriptures, and how to share what they had learned. The disciples heard how to teach from the Torah, heal the sick, cast out demonic spirits, how to pray in JESUS’ name, and in what way to work miracles. At the end of three years Jesus told them, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” John 20:21 (KJV). He knew His death was imminent, but they did not understand. They expected Him to set up an earthly kingdom and reign as the son of David. When JESUS was arrested, accused, and sentenced to death, they questioned whether or not He was their Messiah.
The Son of God was crucified, and then buried. On the third day He arose from his tomb and revealed Himself to Mary Magdalene as she stood at His burial site. JESUS said, “Why weepest thou?” He called her by name, and then she knew it was her rabbi, JESUS. He was alive! John 20:1-16 (KJV).
While two men were leaving Jerusalem, and returning to their home in Emmaus, Jesus appeared and walked with them. As they walked the seven miles, He explained the scriptures to them. Who was this learned man? It was dusk when they arrived home, so they invited him to eat dinner and stay with them. He did stay for the meal, and as He blessed and broke the bread and gave it to them, their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. Then He vanished. Luke 24:13-35 (paraphrased).
JESUS was next seen by the disciples, including the two men from Emmaus who had returned to Jerusalem to join them. Suddenly JESUS appeared in their midst. (John 20:26). They thought He was a ghost. To assure them JESUS said, “Touch me and see my hands and feet.” Luke 24:39 (Paraphrased).
As they ate together, He reminded them: When I was with you, I told you that all things must be fulfilled as was written in scripture, in the prophets, and in the Psalms about me, but you did not understand. Now you know - you witnessed all these things. Luke 24:44 (paraphrased). Then JESUS told them He was returning to the Father, and they were to wait together in Jerusalem until the promise of the Father to send the Holy Spirit would be fulfilled.
JESUS and his disciples left Jerusalem, and walked to the Mount of Olives. As they stood together, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” Numbers 6:24-26 (KJV).
As He was blessing them, He began to ascend into heaven, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. The disciples stared upwards. All at once they realized that two men were standing next to them. One said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same JESUS, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11 (KJV).
After the successful Apollo 15 mission, the world watched the astronauts return to earth in the command module, “Endeavor.” It splashed down in the mid-Pacific Ocean. During the time Jim was on his mission, I had total confidence that the LORD would return my husband safely from the moon. Even though one of the three landing parachutes deflated before splashdown, the men did return safely.
My faith in JESUS’ return is even greater for it rests in GOD’S word. JESUS said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:3 (KJV).
The disciples had assurance of the LORD’S return, and so do I. My faith confirms my inner peace.