Many historians consider this one event the single greatest accomplishment in all of human history. While others dispute this assertion, it is nonetheless undeniable that the Apollo 11 mission remains the single greatest accomplishment in the history of the space program. NASA can rightly be proud of what it accomplished in July of 1969!
Of course, four months later, in November of 1969, Apollo 12 repeated Apollo 11’s glowing success. But the next mission, Apollo 13, which unfolded the following April, was destined for infamy!
As was chronicled in the now famous Oscar-winning 1995 movie, Apollo 13, the ship’s cryogenic oxygen system suffered catastrophic failure in route to the moon. As a result, the crew spent four nail-biting days working with NASA’s ground control, in a desperate attempt to return the ship and her personnel safely back to earth.
If you have seen the movie, you will perhaps remember the riveting scene wherein Commander Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks) is shown in an interview recalling an earlier near-perilous flight in a fighter jet over the darkening Sea of Japan. On that occasion, the failure of his cockpit lights allowed him to see the soft bio-luminescent glow left behind by churned-up algae in the wake of the aircraft carrier he was seeking.
It was this glowing green trail that eventually guided him back to the ship for a safe landing. It is obvious in the movie that this memory gave Lovell the inspiration to keep his crew hopeful and sane until the mission was completed.
Here are the words he shares in the scene:
Uh, well I'll tell ya I remember this one time - I'm in a Banshee at night in combat conditions so there's no running lights on the carrier. It was the Shrangri-La and we were in the Sea of Japan and my radar had jammed and my homing signal was gone because somebody in Japan was actually using the same frequency. And so it was … it was leading me away from where I was supposed to be.
And I'm lookin' down at a big black ocean. So I flip on my map light and then suddenly… Zap! Everything shorts out right there in my cockpit. All my instruments are gone. My lights are gone.
And I can't even tell now what my altitude is. I know I'm running out of fuel; so I'm thinking about ditching in the ocean.
And I look down there; and then in the darkness there's this, uh… there's this green trail. It's like a long carpet that's just laid out right beneath me. And it was the algae, right? It was that phosphorescent stuff that gets churned up in the wake of a big ship.
And it was…. it was… it was leading me home. You know, if my cockpit lights hadn't shorted out, there's no way I'd ever been able to see that! So, uh, you uh, never know what events are to transpire to get you home!
I love this scene because it speaks volumes to me about those times in my own life when I have felt like the lights have gone out and I have been left “in the dark”, only to discover that this then becomes the very time when God shows me the way I am to go!
Time and again over the years, He has first turned out the lights, and then lit the way for me to go! The Psalmist understood this as well. Time and again, he testifies to God having lighted the way for him:
“My God turns my darkness into light.” (Psalm 18:28);
“The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:8);
“Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.” (Psalm 43:3); and, of course…
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105).
Are you currently in a dark place? Does it seem as if the lights have been dimmed? Is it hard to see which way to go? If so, then take heart! It may well be that God just now has you where He wants you to be, all in order that He can now give you the only true light you need!
If this is the case, then relish the darkness! For it is always darkest just before the dawn! And the darkness you are now experiencing may very well just be the necessary prelude to God shining His glorious light upon the path He now intends for you to take! When He does, when He “green lights” the way, then by all means, go that way! For it will surely lead you safely home!
STORY: In her article titled “Houston we have a Problem: How Jim Lovell used Bioluminescent Algae to Land his Broken Aircraft” published on August 11, 2018 at www.thevintagenews.com, Marea Harris gives a more detailed account of what happened to Lovell that night in the Sea of Japan.
NOTE: YouTube has the above-referenced scene from Apollo 13 posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QqxRBHoQB0.