Happy 47th anniversary Apollo 8

23 Dec

It was 47 years ago yesterday, Dec 21, that astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders climbed into the command capsule of Apollo 8. There would wait as the countdown took then closer to launch. Then at 7:51 am EST (4:51 am PST) the engines of the Saturn V rocket roared to life and Apollo 8 lifted off from platform 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Their destination to reach lunar orbit before returning to Earth.

For the next three days the Apollo 8 craft journeyed to the Moon. Once the craft achieved a lunar orbit, on Dec 24, the astronauts circled the Moon 10 times. During those lunar orbits we were treated to a live Christmas Eve broadcast where astronauts read the first 10 verses of the biblical book of Genesis. The broadcast was the first time that an Apollo craft transmitted from space.

Once the craft made its scheduled lunar orbits the crew broke orbit to go back to Earth. It was another three days before the craft would re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. A few minutes after the craft was back in orbit of the Earth the capsules parachutes deployed for the final descent. At 7:51 am PST on Dec 27, 1968 the capsule splashed into the Pacific Ocean. The capsule was then hoisted on to the USS Yorktown were the hatch was opened up and the brave astronauts were welcomed back to Earth.

Apollo 8 was only the second manned mission since the horrific Apollo I tragedy. It was also a groundbreaking mission that for the first time showed that we actually had the capability to finally reach the Moon. There would be two more missions of rehearsals until NASA finally landed on the Moon with Apollo 11.

Originally the mission was slated to be Apollo 9 and set to launch early in 1969. The mission that was to be Apollo 8 was suppose to test the new lunar module. In late 1968 when it was apparent that the lunar module would not be completed in time the front office at NASA made the call to switch the missions. This meant that the crew of Borman, Lovell, and Anders would need to speed up their training to be ready approximately 3 months early.

Before Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman and James Lovell had manned the Gemini 7 mission. On that mission they conducted the first rendezvous in space when they coupled up with the Gemini 6 craft. 14-days in orbit around the Earth. Gemini 7 and Apollo 8 would be the only two flights for Mr. Borman. James Lovell though would go on to command the infamous Apollo 13 mission.

Apollo 8 was the only time that William Anders would go into space. He was chosen to be one of the backup crew for Apollo 11. That would be as close as he would get before retiring at the end of 1969.

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