Christmas Eve, 1968: Apollo 8 mission

Earthrise from Apollo 8

Anyone who was alive then will remember Christmas Eve of 1968.  On that day, the Apollo 8 became the first manned mission to orbit the Moon.  The crew, Mission Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders, launched on December 21, 1968 and reached lunar orbit on Christmas Eve.  Over a period of 20 hours the spacecraft orbited the Moon ten times.  On its fourth pass across the front of the Moon, Anders took the famous Earthrise photo pictured, later selected by Life as one of the hundred photos that changed the world.

On their ninth pass, the crew readied themselves for a television broadcast — the most-watched television broadcast of the time.  Each gave his impression of the lunar surface and the experience of orbiting the Moon; Bornman described it as being “a vast, lonely, forbidding expanse of nothing.”  What must have been going through these men’s minds at that time: they, there by a triumph of technology, yet so small and lonely and fragile?  As they approached lunar sunrise, their transmission continued with a message for the inhabitants of the Blue Planet:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
what is man that You are mindful of him,
and the son of man that You visit Him?

Psalm 8, NKJV

Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
for He has visited and redeemed His people.

Luke 1, NKJV

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One Response to Christmas Eve, 1968: Apollo 8 mission

  1. Jonathan Lun says:

    Thanks Marcus, I really appreciated this post.

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