Years Ago Apollo 8 Wished Earth A Merry Christmas Eve

MoreCloseclosemore

Fifty years ago this week, at another time when Americans and so much of the world were riven by turmoil, anger, and mistrust, Apollo 8 had found a way to remind earth's residents that what unites them is far more profound and enduring than what divides them. When the Apollo 8 mission was redesigned, no mission control room was ready, no trajectories had been calculated for a lunar flight, no astronauts had been trained for it and there was no procedure for fetching returning astronauts on landing, current NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine recounted in a new video released by the agency.

On Dec. 21, 1968, just before 5 a.m. local time, James Lovell, William Anders and Frank Borman had no way of knowing that when they piled into their capsule tucked atop a Saturn V rocket on a Florida launchpad.

While photographing the moon's surface, Bill Anders saw the Earth rising over the lunar horizon. Anders rushed to snap a picture, and the Earthrise image remains one of the most famous ever taken in space.

In the transmission heard around the world, Anders said: "We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you". The mission was planned in just four months as the USA raced to beat the Russians to the moon.

"And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas - and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth".

To Lovell, the journey had the thrill and romance of true exploration, and provided an uplifting cap for Americans to a painful, contentious year marked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, nationwide riots and protests of the Vietnam War. "Thanks, you saved 1968".

"What's the imperative? What's pushing us to go to Mars?" he said. The NOVA program traces how engineers had to tweak the design of the Saturn V's F-1 rocket engines to make sure they didn't blow themselves apart due to combustion instability.

The only thing that remained of the mission was the trip back home.

The broadcast ended with the crew reading from the book of Genesis. A NASA director answered: 50-50.

It would be hard for that Christmas to top the one from the year before, when my father came home on Christmas Eve, having been in the hospital for more than a month. Apollo 9 would lift up to Earth orbit and test out the lander, while Apollo 10, in May 1969, tested the lander above the surface of the Moon-stopping short of a landing. "Look at that picture over there!"

Three happy Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman left William A. Anders center and James A. Lovell stroll across the deck of the USS Yorktown after their recovery from the Pacific Ocean Dec. 28 1968
Apollo 8: Around The Moon and Back

"Oh man, that's great", Lovell said, still fixed on the apparition outside his window. Look at that!' and up came the Earth. And Anders says it forever changed the way people think about where we live.

His Earthrise photo is a pillar of today's environmental movement.

Anders wondered then - and now - "This is not a very big place, why can't we get along?"

"That one image, I think, it just gives us the who and where we are in the universe so beautifully", she said.

We'd been following the Apollo 8 mission during Christmas week and knew it was the most important yet.

Reflecting on their own historic mission to the Moon, Borman described Apollo 8 as a "great endeavour" and agreed that it had won the space race.

If ever fortune favored the fearless, it favored NASA and the crew of Apollo 8.

Borman and Anders never flew in space again, and Soviet cosmonauts never made it to the moon.

Lovell also flew on ill-fated Apollo 13, which had to abort plans to land on the moon after an explosion in an oxygen tank.

Related:

Comments

Latest news

'Cracking noises' trigger evacuation of Sydney apartment tower
A 33-storey apartment high-rise near central Sydney was evacuated Monday after residents reported hearing cracking noises. Another resident told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation there were cracks on the building's 12th and 13th floors.

Thala is back: MS Dhoni returns to India's T20, ODI squad
India are now engaged in a Test series against Australia and will play three ODIs against them starting January 12 in Sydney. Kedar Jadhav will provide some boost in the middle order and could also be used as a spin bowling option.

Businesses open on Christmas Day
This Saturday before Christmas is widely known as 'Super Saturday, ' the largest shopping day of the year, following Black Friday. Wine Rack stores and many local craft breweries will also have extended hours, although you should check ahead before you go.

Paul Pogba Thanks Jose Mourinho For Trophies
Rash's [Marcus Rashford's] free-kick helped settle the nerves. "We know, also, it's not only the manager's fault that results are not good but this is football and we have to carry on and to fight for the club".

Nawaz given seven-year jailterm in Al-Azizia, acquitted in Flagship reference
Talking to the media in Multan, he said that the goal of the NAB was to make politicians change their political loyalties. There was not enough evidence to convict Nawaz in the Flagship reference, thus he has been acquitted, the decision read.

Other news