A Christmas Story on the Moon: The Apollo 8 astronauts shared a message on Christmas Eve as they orbited the Moon
It was the night before Christmas 1968 when the Apollo 8 astronauts sent a message for the “Good Earth” as they orbited the Moon.
NASA Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders became the first to orbit the Moon on December 24, 1968.
With pressure mounting under President John F. Kennedy’s defiance of the moon landing and the tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire, NASA made bold changes to Apollo 8, moving forward with a human orbiting mission to the moon.
The resolution sent the crew to the moon and back without a lunar module on the first human spaceflight of a Saturn V rocket and a single engine on the capsule to bring them home.
After launching on December 21, 1968, Bormann, Lovell, and Anders reached lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, orbiting the lunar surface 10 times.
As the crew emerged from behind the Moon on the first orbit, the Apollo 8 astronauts shared images of the Moon and Earth, including a view of Earth rising more than 240,000 miles away. The image of Earth with the Moon below has become one of the most iconic images of the Apollo era, according to NASA.
More than 50 years later, until December 2022, NASA’s Orion spacecraft, designed to take the next humans to the Moon, also shared a similar view of Earthrise.
NASA managers have asked the Apollo 8 astronauts to get ready to share some words with the world that will be broadcast around the world. Boorman said in a 2008 interview that the crew were given creative freedom to choose what to say but were told to “do something appropriate”.
With that in mind, they chose to read the first 10 verses of Genesis.
Years later, Lovell said, the letter was chosen because of its universal meaning.
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“The first ten verses of Genesis are the foundation of many of the world’s religions, not just Christianity,” Lovell said in 2008. In proportion to that, and so it was.
When the Apollo 8 capsule was orbiting the Moon more than 240,000 miles from Earth, each astronaut took turns reciting verses.
“From the Apollo 8 crew, we close Good Night, We Wish You Good Luck, Merry Christmas, and God Bless You All, All of You on Good Earth.”
The broadcast has been seen or heard by 1 in 4 people on Earth.
The message from the Moon would be the last before the astronauts attempted to return to Earth, and Mission Control waited to see if the Apollo 8 engine burned to leave lunar orbit running.
After successfully burning the engine, Lovell told Mission Control, “Roger, please know Santa Claus exists.”
The Apollo 8 capsule crashed into the Pacific Ocean on December 27, 1968.
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