VIDEO SPECIAL: Apollo 8, Christmas At The Moon
By NASA.gov // December 25, 2015
NASA NEWS AND SPACE DISCOVERIES
ABOVE VIDEO: Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts–Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders–held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis.
Christmas Eve, 1968.
As one of the most turbulent, tragic years in American history drew to a close, millions around the world were watching and listening as the Apollo 8 astronauts – Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders – became the first humans to orbit another world.
As their command module floated above the lunar surface, the astronauts beamed back images of the moon and Earth and took turns reading from the book of Genesis, closing with a wish for everyone “on the good Earth.”
“We were told that on Christmas Eve we would have the largest audience that had ever listened to a human voice,” recalled Borman during 40th anniversary celebrations in 2008. “And the only instructions that we got from NASA was to do something appropriate.”
“The first ten verses of Genesis is the foundation of many of the world’s religions, not just the Christian religion,” added Lovell. “There are more people in other religions than the Christian religion around the world, and so this would be appropriate to that and so that’s how it came to pass.”
The mission was also famous for the iconic “Earthrise” image, snapped by Anders, which would give humankind a new perspective on their home planet. Anders has said that despite all the training and preparation for an exploration of the moon, the astronauts ended up discovering Earth.
The rest of us can better imagine what it was like for the crew when they made that iconic photo, thanks to a 2013 NASA visualization which draws on richly detailed maps of the moon’s surface made from data gathered by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Also in 2013, the first ever “Earthrise” photo, taken by NASA’s Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966 and restored and enhanced by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project in 2008, was sent to NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission in lunar orbit, using the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration system.
“There is a Santa Claus”
The Apollo 8 astronauts got where they were that Christmas Eve because of a bold, improvisational call by NASA. With the clock ticking on President Kennedy’s challenge to land on the moon by decade’s end, delays with the lunar module were threatening to slow the Apollo program. So NASA decided to change mission plans and send the Apollo 8 crew all the way to the moon without a lunar module on the first manned flight of the massive Saturn V rocket.
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ABOVE VIDEO: Apollo 8 astronaut Jim Lovell recalls the launch.