|The first time
that humans left their home planet to travel to
another celestial body was in the month of
December in the year 1968. The destination
of Apollo 8 was the Moon.
The crew consisted of Commander Frank F. Borman
II, Senior Pilot James A. Lovell, Jr., and Pilot
William A. Anders.
Apollo 8 was launched from the Kennedy Space
Center in Florida with a Saturn V launch vehicle
on December 21, 1968.
After a brief checkout of the vehicle in Earth
orbit for one and one half orbits, the powerful
J2 engine on Saturn V third stage was ignited to
send the crew on their way to the Moon.
Apollo 8 arrived at the Moon on December
24,1968. The service propulsion system
engine on the service module was used to insert
Apollo 8 into lunar orbit.
The crew remained in orbit for 10 revolutions of
the Moon. During that time they reported
observations on the color and texture of the
surface. They also took turns reading
three passages from the book of Genesis in the
Bible near the end of a television
transmission. This was a very moving
transmission from the Moon on Christmas Eve.
radioed: "For all the people
of Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we
would like to send you." Anders
continued, "In the beginning
God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form and void; and
darkness was upon the face of the
deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon
the face of the waters. And God said,
Let there be light: and there was
light. And God saw the light, that it
was good: and God divided the light from the
Jim Lovell followed, "And God called the light Day, and
the darkness he called Night. And the
evening and the morning were the first
day. And God said, Let there be a
firmament in the midst of the waters, and
let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided
the waters which were under the firmament
from the waters which were above the
firmament: and it was so. And God
called the firmament Heaven. And the
evening and the morning were the second
Frank Borman read, "And God said, Let the waters under
the heavens be gathered together unto one
place, and let the dry land appear: and it
was so. And God called the dry land
Earth; and the gathering together of the
waters called he Seas: and God saw that it
To close out the first television
transmission from lunar orbit Borman ended
with, "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."
When I was growing up, Christmas
Eve was always special at my house. It was
the time when Santa Claus would deliver
Christmas gifts. No gift was ever more
special for me than being able to watch the live
transmission from the crew of Apollo 8 in lunar
orbit. Taking photographs of the
television coverage with my grandmother's Kodak
Brownie Target Six-20 box camera is a memory
that I will always cherish.
service propulsion system engine on the service
module was ignited to send the crew of Apollo 8
back toward the Earth. This burn was completed
on the far side of the Moon and out of radio
contact with Earth. Upon
reestablishing contact after that communications
blackout, Astronaut Lovell exclaimed, "Houston, Apollo 8. Please be informed,
there is a Santa Claus."
Six days after they
had left on December 27, 1968, astronauts
Borman, Lovell, and Anders splashed down in the
Pacific Ocean. The primary recovery ship was the
The United States had trumped the Soviet Union
in the space race. No single mission did more to
discourage the Soviets from going to the Moon
than did Apollo 8.