Happy 48th anniversary Apollo 8

22 Dec

It was 48 years ago today, Dec 21, that the Kennedy Space Center in Florida roared to life with the liftoff of the Apollo 8 craft. It was shortly after 7:00 am EST (4:00 am PST) that the whole nation was treated to the sight of three brave astronauts as they waited in the Apollo 8 command module, that sat on top of a 110 foot tall Saturn V rocket, as we listened to the countdown to launch. The viewers all held their breath as they heard 10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…liftoff. Then there was a cheer as the engines came to life, at 7:51 am EST (4:51 am PST), and carried the rocket into space. For the next three days viewers eagerly watched as these brave men journeyed to the moon where they would go into a lunar orbit.

On Dec 24 (Christmas Eve), 1968 they reach their objective when they took up a lunar orbit. For the next 20 hours they would make 10 orbits of the Moon. Approximately million television viewers watched as we were able to see the lunar surface for the first time and what the Earth looked like as viewed from space. On that evening we were also treated to the voices of our astronauts as they read the first 10 verses of the book of Genesis from the Bible. The three astronauts took turns reading one verse for each orbit. Once that of the mission was over they started the 3 day journey back to Earth.

For the next three days we held our breath and watched as these men rocketed back to Earth. On Dec 27, 1968 at 10:51 am EST (7:51am PST) we were able to let that breath out as the Apollo 8 command module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. From there the command module would be recovered by the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. The astronauts would have to wait 43 minutes before frogmen from the USS Yorktown would reach the module to bring them the crew and capsule on board. The three men were then welcomed back to Earth and taken back to dry land. That year Colonel Frank Borman, Major William A Anders, and Captain James A Lovell were honored as Time “Men of the Year”.

Apollo 8 was the second time that Frank Borman and James Lovell were partnered on a space mission. The two were also paired for the Gemini 7 mission were they would perform the first orbital rendezvous. In that mission they would link with the Gemini 7 craft that was launched into Earth’s orbit 14 days earlier. After both missions James A Lovell would go on to command the infamous Apollo 13 mission that was never able to fulfill its mission of landing on the moon. Frank Borman retired from NASA after the Apollo 8 mission. William A Anders would be named as part of the back-up crew for Apollo 11 but never go on another mission.

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