In the South nave of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. there is a stained glass panel called the Space Window. The panel is filled with planets and stars, and straight lines meant to suggest the trajectories of space ships. Its color palette — blue, purple, red and green—-was inspired by images from Apollo 11. Stilled in the center of a large red orb at the window’s focal point is a sliver of Moon rock. The tiny shard of lunar basalt was gifted to the Cathedral by the crew of Apollo 11 back in 1974, on the fifth anniversary of the first Moon landing. As a piece of public art, the Space Window’s function is to commemorate the spiritual and scientific import of America’s space program. By lodging this window into our National house of worship, alongside religious and nationalist iconography, we are saying that space exploration is sacred.
Yesterday morning, I visited the National Cathedral to attend a memorial service for space exploration’s most exalted figure, Neil Armstrong, the first human being to set foot on another celestial sphere. More than a thousand people poured into the cathedral to celebrate Armstrong, including 24 members of Congress. The Armstrong family sat in front. Nearby, a small-white haired fraternity of illustrious ex-astronauts gathered, including Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins of Apollo 11, and former U.S. Senator John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth.
The occasion was, on the whole, joyous. This being a memorial service, the speeches all had solemn moments. But at no time was the ceremony sad; at no time could anyone forget that Armstrong lived an extraordinary life.
Read more. [Image: Ross Andersen]
This service seems just perfect. Quite befitting a man who opened the imaginations of generations of Americans.