July 13, 2009.
It’s been almost 40 years since 1 billion people tuned into their black and white television screens to see man’s first steps on the moon.
After Soviet attempts, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, along with Michael Collins, walked on the moon July 20, 1969.
The world curiously observed the legs of the “Eagle” module and Armstrong’s left foot, the first to step off the space capsule. Nineteen minutes later, Aldrin descended the nine steps of the module to step on the satellite.
Among the billion people who witnessed these first steps was Paul VI. The pope watched the event in the Vatican Observatory, one of the world’s oldest astronomical institutions, located at that time in Castel Gandolfo.
After the mission to the moon, pope Paul VI received a small sample of the 22 kilograms of lunar rocks that astronauts collected during the two hours they were on the moon.
The sample is still preserved at the Vatican Observatory and is part of the 1,200 pieces of meteorites and some 22,000 volumes of ancient astronomy written by geniuses such as Copernicus, Galileo and Newton. He also received the Vatican flag set on the moon alongside the flags of all the countries of the world.