Apollo 8 Reminded Us About Our Shared Humanity On Christmas Eve 50 Years Ago

NASA. Photo by Bill Anders

1968 was a year of upheaval.  War, civil rights struggle, scandal, and tragedy.  Yet for one day, all of humanity seemed to come together to watch the first time that man had ever orbited around another heavenly body.

Three astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, all floated in an Apollo command module (without the delayed lunar module) as the the grey, desolate moon passed below.

As they passed over the moon, the had access to what was then called the largest television audience ever amassed.Bill Anders took the opportunity to read the first four verses of the Bible.  Jim Lovell then read the next three.  Frank Borman then read the next three. Their full two minute reading is below.

Apollo 8 was also famous for the photograph titled ‘earthrise’.  That photo contained every living and deceased living being known to man except the three in the Apollo module.

After ten orbits of the moon, the crew fired its engines for a burn that put it back on a trajectory towards earth.  When the burn was complete, Lovell said, “Roger, please be informed there is a Santa Claus.”

Lovell would take to space again on Apollo 13.  He was supposed to set foot on Apollo 13.  Unfortunately that crew encountered a major malfunction that forced the crew to abandon the lunar landing.  Despite sever damage to the command module, the crippled craft limped home with the aid of the lunar module.  Lovell never did land on the moon but he’ll be remembered for giving a speech that was seen and heard live by a good part of the world.