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50 years on: Apollo 8 — man's first journey to the moon…

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« on: December 23, 2018, 04:55:57 pm »

50 years ago this Christmas, three astronauts — Frank Borman, James Lovell and Bill Anders — journeyed away from earth in Apollo 8 and went into orbit around the moon. They completed ten lunar orbits throughout Christmas Eve (it was Christmas Day in New Zealand), then departed moon orbit a few minutes into Christmas Day (American-time) and returned to earth. It was one of the most daring manned space missions ever undertaken and it was all put together in only four months due to paranoia that Russian cosmonauts were about to beat American astronauts to the moon. There was no lunar module, meaning that if anything went wrong with the service module engine, there would have been no way to accelerate out of moon orbit and return to earth. As we saw with the later Apollo 13 mission which went disasterously wrong, it was the lunar module with its rocket engine which saved the day and allowed the crew to safely return to earth from the brink of disaster.

I was just a few weeks short of my 15th birthday when the Apollo 8 mission occured and I can still vividly recall the wonderment as we sat down to Christmas dinner that year, that three men were orbiting the moon a quarter-of-a-million miles away out in space. When the mission was first announced in August, our mathematics teacher at Karamu High School in Hastings put together an entire double-period lesson on the physics and mathematics involved in successfully getting to the moon and back; and right after the August school holidays, in the very first week of the third school term, we received that lesson over a period of an hour-and-a-half. It was real fascinating stuff.

I grew up with early space exploration — I was 3½-years-old when Sputnik was launched and cannot specifically remember that being launched, although I became aware of Sputnik not long afterwards — and I can remember the first animals launched into orbit by both the Russians and the Americans, as well as the first manned space flights, and the entire Gemini program and corresponding Russian space missions as both sides of the iron curtain raced for the moon. But it was Apollo 8 which really caught the attention of the world, even though it was Apollo 11 the following year which grabbed all the glory. I can recall an interview with Neil Armstrong many years ago where he was asked if Apollo 11 was man's greatest exploration achievement, and he replied that in his opinion it was Apollo 8 which really pushed the boundaries and proved it was possible to fly to the moon, enter into lunar orbit, then successfully return to earth; whereas Apollo 11 merely did what had already been done except that instead of merely going close to the moon's surface as Apollo 10 had done, they actually descended the last few hundred feet and landed, with most of the daring stuff having been already achieved with the earlier missions and in particular the Apollo 8 mission the previous year.

Earlier this year, an amazing book about the Apollo 8 mission called “Rocket Men” by Robert Kurson was published and I purchased a copy from Powell's Book World in Portland, Oregon on the date it was released and it turned up in my PO Box a week later. I thoroughly enjoyed reading that book, which was reviewed in The New York Times. I have had a copy of Michael Collins' book “Carrying The Fire” about the Apollo 11 mission for about three decades (it's actually stashed in a bookcase in my bedroom), but this new book is one which is very hard to put down once you start reading it.

Below is The New York Times review of the book “Rocket Man”, followed by a further New York Times article about a documentary (included within the article) about the Apollo 8 mission, looking back 50 years. All three Apollo 8 astronauts are still alive (Frank Borman and James Lovell are 90 years old and Bill Anders is 87) and both Borman and Anders still hold current private pilots' licences and own their own private aeroplanes. All three of them are still with their life-long wives too, although Frank Borman's wife, Susan, is unfortunately suffering from advanced Alzheimer's.

from The New York Times…

Book Review: The Paradoxes and the Glory
of Apollo 8's Journey Around the Moon

By M.G. LORD | Tuesday, May 15, 2018

“Rocket Men”.

IN December 1968, my parents and I prayed for Bill Anders. We prayed for Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, too. Aboard the Apollo 8 spacecraft, these men were hurtling toward the moon — the first-ever humans to break free from Earth's gravity. But Anders was special. Like my father, he was an engineer and an outspoken Roman Catholic. After dark on Christmas Eve, we huddled near our TV, expecting a jargon-filled broadcast from lunar orbit.

Instead, with an image of Earth onscreen, Anders read the opening of Genesis. Lovell followed. Borman concluded: “And God saw that it was good” — astonishingly hopeful words in 1968, a year shattered by violent protests and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.

NASA had not vetted their text. At Mission Control, the brass was stunned, yet moved. My mother gasped. This moment — this respite from conflict and despair — still shimmers in my memory, brighter than Neil Armstrong's historic moonwalk. Even fierce space program critics like Leonard Bernstein were struck by it. During Borman's reading, the novelist William Styron later recalled, there was a “depthless and inexpressible” look on Bernstein's face.

For people who were not alive in 1968 — or kids whose dads did not chart the craft's every move on a family bulletin board — Robert Kurson's “Rocket Men” is a riveting introduction to the flight. The book takes off when Apollo's massive launch vehicle, the Saturn V, rises — an experience like “watching the Empire State Building leave Earth.”

“Rocket Men” author, Robert Kurson. — Photograph: Matt Ferguson.
Rocket Men” author, Robert Kurson.
 — Photograph: Matt Ferguson.

Kurson details the mission in crisp, suspenseful scenes, interspersed with quieter history-driven chapters. The astronauts were not prepared for the ferocity of blastoff. In the ground-based flight simulator, they had modeled all manner of disasters, including fatal ones. “Dying helped the men learn to survive,” Kurson writes. But the mock-up never replicated the roar, the shuddering or the G-forces of the real thing.

Nor were they prepared for their own frailty; they were test pilots in top physical shape. But several hours into the mission, Borman suddenly vomited and had a bout of explosive diarrhea — too extensive to be either contained or cleaned up. The waste particles, reminders of their humanness, would travel with them. When the capsule splashed down in the Pacific, a rescuer poked his head in and recoiled — because, he told the men, of “the way you smelled.”

Soon, however, annoyances within the cabin were eclipsed by what was outside: the majesty of the moon, as well as that of our home planet — its brilliant blues and browns a contrast to the relentless lunar gray. In 1968, NASA itself was as colorless as the moon. Its work force was overwhelmingly white, Christian and male. Mission Control had no women's restroom because there were no women. And the press fetishized the helpmate status of the astronauts' wives — a detail that galled me even as a child.

If “Rocket Men” has a minor shortcoming, it is a sin of omission. Although Kurson's source notes mention “papers once secret” that “have now been declassified,” he is silent on Operation Paperclip, the government program that sanitized the war records of Nazi engineers. He writes that the American aviator Charles Lindbergh, often seen as pro-Nazi, had “controversial political views.” But Wernher von Braun, who was a Nazi SS officer, gets a pass — as does the Saturn V manager Arthur Rudolph, who fled to Germany in 1984 rather than face a denaturalization hearing based on his war crimes.

Kurson understands paradox: “The astronauts had come all this way to discover the moon, and yet here they had discovered the Earth.” But because this gripping book will acquaint new people with the space program, I wish he had touched on the program's paradoxes and ethical complexity. Against a dark background, the triumph of Apollo 8 would not appear any less radiant.


ROCKET MEN — The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson.

• Illustrated. 372 pp. Random House. $28.


• M. G. Lord is the author of Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science, a family memoir about Cold War aerospace culture. She is working on a graphic novel that deals with astronauts.


from The New York Times…

A First Glimpse of Our Magnificent Earth,
Seen From the Moon

The first people to view our planet from the
moon were transformed by the experience.
In this film, they tell their story.

By EMMANUEL VAUGHAN-LEE | Tuesday, October 02, 2018

ON December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida. The astronaut crew — Frank Borman, Bill Anders and James Lovell — were the first humans to escape Earth's orbit, venturing about 240,000 miles farther than anyone before them.

Their mission was to orbit the moon, testing the viability of a future moon landing. NASA was focused on getting to the moon and beating the Soviet Union in the space race; everything else, including photography, was secondary. Yet during their lunar orbit, the crew emerged from the dark side of the moon to see the Earth rising before them over the lunar horizon. They scrambled to capture the image, producing the first color photograph taken of the Earth from the moon. It became known as “Earthrise” and has become one of the most well-known photographs in history.

The iconic “Earthrise” photograph shifted the vision of space exploration from one that leaves Earth behind to one that marvels in the rare magnificence and beauty of our home planet. It ushered in a collective awareness of the Earth as a whole, transcending borders and boundaries, and came to be used by many to instill a sense of wonder, awe and stewardship toward the planet. It was a natural inspiration for the creation of Earth Day, and subsequently for the environmental movement as a whole.

I've always loved the Earth photography captured during the Apollo missions, and the “Earthrise” image is particularly poignant for me. In all the tellings I watched or read of Apollo 8 — and there are many — I wanted to experience more. I wanted to know the story behind the photograph, to know what it was like for the first human beings to see and experience Earth from space.

I wondered what role this image could offer us 50 years later as we face intense political, social and ecological upheaval. Could it become a symbol of remembrance that unites us?

All these years later, the Apollo 8 astronauts still remembered every detail of their mission and their experience looking back at the Earth. I had approached the interviews with all sorts of ideas about the profound insights they would share, the epiphanies they must have had and how it had forever changed their lives. And while they offered these insights during the interviews, they also provided something much simpler, something much more human that touched me the most. It was as if seeing the Earth from the moon had awakened a primordial feeling within each of them. Home.

My editor Adam Loften and I spent countless hours reviewing archive footage and photography from the Apollo missions. The tactile quality of the 16 mm footage and 70 mm photography imparted a quality I felt was lacking from the crisp digital images from satellites and the International Space Station I'd become accustomed to seeing. I could almost feel the human presence behind the lens, a sense of emotion that was imparted to the footage itself. In telling the story, I wanted to create that human connection to the Earth I felt within the footage and the astronauts' experiences. I wanted to explore how to feel and witness the Earth as our home the way they had. I wanted to share the awe and beauty they had experienced, to remember the power of this image they shared with the world.



• Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee is a documentary filmmaker and composer. His previous Op-Docs are Who Speaks Wukchumni?Vanishing Island and Sanctuaries of Silence.

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« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2018, 04:57:51 pm »

from The Washington Post…

Apollo 8: NASA's first moonshot was a bold
and terrifying improvisation

Fifty years ago, the mission was mind-blowing — and dangerous.

By JOEL ACHENBACH | 7:00AM EST — Thursday, December 20, 2018

Apollo 8 lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 21, 1968. — Photograph: Associated Press.
Apollo 8 lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 21, 1968. — Photograph: Associated Press.

WALTER CRONKITE held a tiny model of the Apollo 8 spacecraft and strode across a darkened studio where two dangling spheres represented Earth and the moon. This was the CBS Evening News, on December 20, 1968, and three Apollo 8 astronauts were scheduled to blast off the following morning on a huge Saturn V rocket. Cronkite explained that the astronauts would fly for three days to the vicinity of the moon, fire an engine to slow the spacecraft and enter lunar orbit, circle the moon 10 times, then fire the engine a final time to return to Earth and enter the atmosphere at 25,000 miles per hour.

“They must come in at JUST the right angle. If they come in too steeply, they will be CRUSHED in the Earth's atmosphere. If they come in too shallow, they will SKIP OUT and go into Earth orbit and not be able to return,” Cronkite said.

Fifty years later, it's hard to remember how mind-blowing Apollo 8 was, and how scary. No space mission had ever presented so many exotic ways to kill astronauts. Before the launch, a NASA official was overheard imagining what might go wrong: “Just how do we tell Susan Borman, ‘Frank is stranded in orbit around the moon’?”

Apollo 8 was the first moonshot. No human being had ever been beyond low Earth orbit. Even the Apollo 8 astronauts — Frank Borman, James Lovell Jr. and Bill Anders — struggled to wrap their heads around what they were about to do.

They shared their final pre-launch lunch with Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, at Cape Kennedy. “Think, it’s hard to believe, this time tomorrow we'll be on our way to the moon,” one of the astronauts said, according to Morrow Lindbergh's subsequent article in LIFE magazine.

What's more, Apollo 8 was improvisational. It wasn't even supposed to be a mission to the moon.

“It was an extraordinarily bold decision,” says Teasel Muir-Harmony, curator of Apollo Spacecraft at the National Air and Space Museum.

“One of the most risky decisions in the history of spaceflight” is the verdict of historian Asif Siddiqi of Fordham University.

Mission control during the Apollo 8 blastoff on December 21, 1968. — Photograph: Associated Press.
Mission control during the Apollo 8 blastoff on December 21, 1968. — Photograph: Associated Press.

NASA had a clear goal, established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, of landing an astronaut on the moon before the end of the decade. The agency carried out a sequence of missions that incrementally advanced its expertise in human spaceflight. Rather than sending astronauts directly from Earth to the moon's surface, NASA's engineers decided that the Apollo program should build a separate lunar lander, which greatly reduced the size of the rocket needed for the mission.

This relatively lightweight vehicle would separate from the command module in lunar orbit and two astronauts would descend to the moon's surface. They would then blast off and dock with the orbiting vehicle. Katherine Johnson, one of the NASA human “computers” made famous decades later by the movie “Hidden Figures”, said her greatest contribution to the space program was her calculations for the Apollo program, according to NASA.

By early 1967, the United States appeared to be winning the race to the moon. Then came disaster. During a test of the command module on a launchpad at Cape Kennedy, during which the cabin was filled with pure oxygen, a fire broke out and killed the three Apollo 1 astronauts — Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White.

The tragedy threatened to ruin any chance of putting boots on the moon by the decade's end. By late summer 1968, NASA was desperate to get back on schedule. The refashioned NASA schedule called for Apollo 7 to be an Earth-orbital flight that would test the re-engineered Apollo command module. Apollo 8, the first crewed flight of the Saturn V rocket, would also stay in Earth orbit and test the lunar lander.

But the lunar lander wasn't ready to fly.

Meanwhile, the Soviets were building a giant moon rocket, the N1. The CIA circulated a report in the spring of 1968 saying that the Soviets could potentially send a human being on a mission around the moon before the end of the year. (And in September 1968, a pressurized spacecraft named Zond 5 zoomed around the moon with turtles aboard, clearly a precursor to a human mission.)

Young and old alike flocked to the beaches overlooking Cape Kennedy, Florida, on December 21, 1968, to see the liftoff of Apollo 8. — Photograph: Associated Press.
Young and old alike flocked to the beaches overlooking Cape Kennedy, Florida, on December 21, 1968, to see the liftoff of Apollo 8.
 — Photograph: Associated Press.

George Low, the manager of the Apollo spacecraft program office in Houston, knew that his Apollo schedule was a mess. So he tore it up. He decided Apollo 8 should be a moonshot.

His logic was simple: We have the hardware to fly around the moon. We have the Saturn V rocket, the Apollo command module and the service module. The one missing piece is the lunar lander, and we don't need that for a mission that doesn't try to land.

On August 7, Low presented the idea to Chris Kraft, the director of flight operations in Houston, and asked him to study whether it was technically feasible. On August 9, Low pitched the plan to the head of the Houston center, Bob Gilruth, who embraced it right away, and Kraft reported that there were no showstoppers. They phoned a number of top NASA officials at other centers and asked them to fly to Huntsville, Alabama, immediately for a 2:30 p.m. meeting. The Apollo program pivoted in a matter of hours.

The top officials at NASA, Administrator James Webb and Associate Administrator for Human Spaceflight George Mueller, were uncomfortable with what appeared to be a mad dash to the moon. Mueller feared “irresponsible scheduling” and the impact on Apollo were there to be a “catastrophic failure,” according to Low's private notes. But the Apollo engineers persuaded Webb and Mueller.

The designer of the Saturn V, Wernher von Braun, who as a Nazi scientist had built the V-2 rockets launched against Britain in World War II, also signed on to the plan. According to Low's notes, von Braun said that “it doesn't matter to the launch vehicle how far we go.” (As the satirist Tom Lehrer sang: “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department’, says Wernher von Braun.”)

Lieutenant Colonel Bill Anders, Apollo 8 lunar module pilot, looks out of a window during the spaceflight. — Photograph: NASA/via Associated Press.
Lieutenant Colonel Bill Anders, Apollo 8 lunar module pilot, looks out of a window during the spaceflight.
 — Photograph: NASA/via Associated Press.

‘See you on the other side’

The refashioned Apollo 8 mission required NASA to send the spacecraft on an exquisitely precise trajectory that would enter the moon's gravity well, loop around the far side and come within 60 miles of the surface.

That's where the service module engine would fire, slowing the spaceship. If it didn't fire for some reason, that wouldn't be a disaster, because the trajectory was designed to fling Apollo 8 right back toward Earth, a “free return” courtesy of gravity.

But if the engine burned too long, Apollo 8 could crash on the lunar surface. If it burned too briefly, the spacecraft would neither enter lunar orbit nor return to Earth, but would fly off into the void of space.

The plan called for a second burn, to circularize the remaining orbits. Then would come the most anxiety-inducing burn, the one that would send the spacecraft back to Earth. If that didn't work for some reason, the astronauts would circle the moon until their oxygen ran out. That would take about nine days.

All this would happen over the Christmas holiday.

On the morning of the launch, all eyes were focused on the towering Saturn V. Apollo 8 would be only the third launch of the giant rocket. The first test launch, with no crew, had gone beautifully (Cronkite had roared with glee about the “terrific” launch as the entire observation building shook). But the second launch, also without a crew, had suffered multiple technical failures.

The engineers thought they had fixed the problems for Apollo 8. Now NASA was going to put human beings on top of this rocket that stood 363 feet tall and that had had one successful launch and one not-so-good launch.

The large moon crater Goclenius, foreground, approximately 40 statute miles in diameter, and three clustered craters, Magelhaens, Magelhaens A and Colombo A, viewed during the Apollo 8 mission. — Photograph: NASA/via Associated Press.
The large moon crater Goclenius, foreground, approximately 40 statute miles in diameter, and three clustered craters,
Magelhaens, Magelhaens A and Colombo A, viewed during the Apollo 8 mission.
 — Photograph: NASA/via Associated Press.

Apollo 8 lifted off beautifully. Aerospace engineer James Oberg was watching from the beach nearby. “No TV screen or movie screen can show how bright the flame is. It's like a piece of the sun,” he recalled in an interview.

The astronauts were soon in orbit, and just 2½ hours later, Michael Collins, the astronaut in Mission Control assigned to speak with his colleagues in space, said, “Apollo 8, you are go for T.L.I.” That meant Trans Lunar Injection. (These people were not poets.) The third stage of the Saturn V ignited, and they were off for the moon.

Frank Borman got sick en route with vomiting and diarrhea. Bill Anders meticulously described how a floating bolus of vomit split apart in zero gravity and confirmed Newtonian physics.

Jim Lovell peered into the eyepieces of the Apollo Guidance and Navigation System, which featured a telescope and a sextant, and navigated by the stars, the moon and the sun, as if a sailor on the high seas. NASA's Deep Space Network tracked the spacecraft with giant radio antennas, and computers in Houston handled calculations.

“How sure are you we're going to miss the moon?” one of the top NASA officials demanded of engineer John Mayer in Houston as Apollo 8 cruised toward its destination. “I'm real sure,” he said, laughing, though he had an uneasy afterthought: Why aren't they more worried about a miscalculation at re-entry that burns up the spacecraft?

The crew sent back images of Earth, and Earthlings were mesmerized. On CBS, the baritone commentator Eric Sevareid said, “Three creatures of frail flesh and blood are floating through the blackness of space in the neighborhood of the moon. It is staggering and we do not know what it means.”

The spacecraft reached the moon after nearly three days of flight. “See you on the other side,” Lovell said just before the spaceship disappeared behind the moon.

Divers help the Apollo 8 crew from their capsule after splashdown December 27, 1968, in the Pacific Ocean. — Photograph: Associated Press.
Divers help the Apollo 8 crew from their capsule after splashdown on December 27, 1968, in the Pacific Ocean.
 — Photograph: Associated Press.

People had never seen that side of the moon with their own eyes. Nor had they ever been so cut off from their fellow humans. They had no way to communicate with Mission Control. In Houston, there was nothing to do but wait. The place was silent.

Engineers wandered outside for a smoke.

Then Apollo 8 could be heard again, popping from behind the moon in exactly the right place at the right time. Who said space is hard?

The rest of the mission went splendidly, including that scary final burn, which again happened behind the moon. As the spacecraft came back into contact, on track to return to Earth, Lovell told Houston, “Please be informed, there is a Santa Claus.”

The spacecraft splashed into the Pacific just a couple of miles from the Navy aircraft carrier waiting to pick up the astronauts.

On NBC, anchorman David Brinkley said, “The great adventure ended today as it began, with almost everybody in the world holding his breath and hoping it would all work. It all did. It was almost unreasonably perfect…. The human race, without many victories lately, had one today. And it will be remembered as long at the human race lasts.”

Or at least for seven months. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldin walked on the moon the following July. Apollo 8 would thereafter reside in the huge shadow of Apollo 11.


Joel Achenbach writes about science and politics for The Washington Post's National desk. He has been a staff writer for The Post since 1990. He started the newsroom's first online column, Rough Draft, in 1999, and started washingtonpost.com's first blog, Achenblog, in 2005. He has been a regular contributor to National Geographic since 1998, writing on such topics as dinosaurs, particle physics, earthquakes, extraterrestrial life, megafauna extinction and the electrical grid. A 1982 graduate of Princeton University, he has taught journalism at Princeton and at Georgetown University.


Related to this topic:

 • VIDEO: Apollo 8: A story of Christmas around the moon

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« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2018, 04:59:41 pm »

from The Boston Globe…

From a quarter of a million miles away,
Apollo 8 sent a perfect Christmas message

“Say something appropriate”.

By JEFF JACOBY | Friday, December 21, 2018

The Apollo 8 space vehicle was launched from the Kennedy Space Center on December 21, 1968. — Photograph: NASA.
The Apollo 8 space vehicle was launched from the Kennedy Space Center on December 21, 1968.
 — Photograph: NASA.

IT WAS Christmas Eve 1968, and three American astronauts were in the midst of a mission to boldly go where no man had gone before. Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders — the crew of Apollo 8 — were circling the moon. At 8:30 p.m. Houston time, they were scheduled to make a live broadcast that would be beamed back to earth. NASA had cautioned the men that their words would be heard by the largest audience in human history. An estimated 1 billion people — more than one-fourth of the world's population — would tune in. Yet the crew hadn't been told what to say. Their only instruction was: “Say something appropriate.”

As a number of published accounts of the mission have noted, going to the moon hadn't been the original plan for Apollo 8. It was initially supposed to be a flight only to low earth orbit, where the crew could start getting used to NASA's new lunar module, and run through simulations of re-entering earth's atmosphere after a lunar voyage.

Then everything changed. In September, the Soviet Union launched an unmanned lunar probe, Zond 5, which successfully orbited the moon and returned to earth. The CIA reported the Soviets might be planning a manned mission by the end of the year. America's shot at winning the space race, and of achieving President Kennedy's goal of landing an American on the moon before the decade's end, seemed to be slipping away.

Whereupon, in a surge of audacity and élan, NASA switched gears. With barely four months to make it happen, the decision was made to send Apollo 8 to the moon.

The risks were enormous. No one had ever traveled more than 850 miles from the earth's surface; Borman, Lovell, and Anders would have to fly 240,000 miles to reach their destination. It would require the most powerful rocket ever built, the Saturn V, to propel Apollo 8 beyond earth orbit. But Saturn V was new and had never flown a manned crew. In fact, it had only been tested twice — and the second test, in April, had gone very badly.

Even more unnerving was that Apollo 8's new lunar module, plagued by defects, still wasn't ready. That meant the crew would have no backup engine: no lifeboat. There would be only the single engine of the command module, which would be needed repeatedly — to fly to the moon, to enter lunar orbit, to escape from the lunar orbit, and to return to earth. If that engine failed, the astronauts would be doomed.

The death of astronauts was no mere theoretical concern. In January 1967, an errant electrical spark had triggered a flash fire that destroyed Apollo 1 during pre-flight testing, killing three astronauts.

Another such tragedy would be shattering to Americans, all the more so since Apollo 8 would be traveling over Christmas. America in 1968 had already experienced so much anguish — the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, race riots in US cities, the bloody Tet offensive in Vietnam. Chris Kraft, NASA's director of flight operations, later said that the decision to go to the moon on such short notice “took more courage … than anything we ever did in the space program.”

If ever fortune favored the brave, it favored NASA and the crew of Apollo 8. Borman, Lovell, and Anders became the first men to leave earth's gravitational field, the first to travel through a quarter of a million extraterrestrial miles, the first to see the dark side of the moon, and the first to see the heart-stoppingly gorgeous view of an earthrise from outer space — to see the Earth, in Borman's awestruck formulation, the way God must see it.

And now it was Christmas Eve. Apollo 8 was making the ninth of its 10 scheduled revolutions around the moon, and it was time for the crew to “say something appropriate” to a waiting world. When the onboard camera came on, the three astronauts described the tasks they had been performing and their reactions to what they were seeing. Then, said Anders, “for all the people back on earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send to you.”

As the bleak moonscape swept past below them, they read from the Book of Genesis: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth… And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light… And God saw that it was good.”

Borman brought the transmission to a finish after the men recited 10 verses. “We close,” he said, “with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good earth.”

NASA hadn't known what the astronauts were going to say, writes Robert Kurson in Rocket Men a gripping account of Apollo 8's odyssey. “Inside Mission Control, no one moved. Then, one after another, those scientists and engineers in Houston began to cry.”

They weren't the only ones overcome with emotion. The astronauts' words could not have more perfectly suited the moment. Fifty years ago this week, at another time when Americans and so much of the world were riven by turmoil, anger, and mistrust, Apollo 8 had found a way to remind earth's residents that what unites them is far more profound and enduring than what divides them.


Jeff Jacoby, who has been a columnist for The Boston Globe since 1994, is a conservative writer with a national reputation. A native of Cleveland, Jeff has degrees from George Washington University and from Boston University Law School. Before entering journalism, he (briefly) practiced law at the prominent firm of Baker & Hostetler, worked on several political campaigns in Massachusetts, and was an assistant to Dr. John Silber, the president of Boston University. In 1999, Jeff became the first recipient of the Breindel Prize, a major award for excellence in opinion journalism. In 2014, he was included in the “Forward 50”, a list of the most influential American Jews.


from The Boston Globe…

‘God bless all of you on the good Earth’

Remembering the daring Apollo 8 mission.

By DAVID M. SHRIBMAN | Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Apollo 8 crew: James Lovell (left), Bill Anders, and mission commander Frank Borman. — Photograph: File/Associated Press.
The Apollo 8 crew: James Lovell (left), Bill Anders, and mission commander Frank Borman. — Photograph: File/Associated Press.

IN A YEAR of conflict and war, it was a moment of conciliation. In a year of death, it was a moment that affirmed life. In a year of disbelief, it was a moment remembered for its words of faith. In a year unlike any other, it was a moment like no other.

There never has been a year quite like 1968, with war raging in Southeast Asia and in the streets of America; with assassinations depriving the nation of two inspiring leaders; with a presidential campaign catapulting to power a man who vowed to “bring us together’’ even as his election drove Americans apart; and, 50 years ago this week, with a tiny contrivance of humankind leaving the surly bonds of earth and permitting earthlings for the first time to transit the dark side of the moon.

The 45 minutes of silence when the Apollo 8 spacecraft, on the eve of Christmas, slipped behind the moon and out of radio contact, were heart-stopping for all alive in that hour. The crackly return of the astronauts' voices was a moment of grace and unspeakable relief to all who listened in — which was just about everybody.

And then there was the earthrise, the first ever seen by humans.

Today the wounds of that war have largely healed, the assassinations of that year are firmly part of history, Richard M. Nixon is a figure of a distant past, but the image taken from Apollo 8 — of the pastel blue Earth rising out of the ink-black depths of space, a deeply moving portrait of a world at war with itself and yet projecting a soothing kind of peace — endures a half-century later.

“It was an important symbol for the American people in a tough year,” Apollo 8 command-module pilot James Lovell, now 90, said in an interview. “A novelist couldn't have done a better job of staging this. The country needed an uplift, and this was it.”

Apollo 8 — its astronauts at 55 hours, 39 minutes, and 55 seconds into their mission crossing a barrier no human had even approached before, the line between the gravitational realm of the Earth and that of the moon — was an achievement of technology tinged with a strain of theology. It was an important turning point for national security and national identity, a fresh symbol of the surpassing power of television and a welcome tonic to the travails of everyday life on Earth.

And 50 years ago on Monday, as the inhabitants of a weary nation wrapped their presents on Christmas Eve, trod through snowy streets to Mass, set their holiday tables, and reflected on the meaning of the season, the crew of Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Lovell, the first humans to orbit another heavenly body, marked the lunar sunset by reciting the first 10 verses of the Book of Genesis — a dramatic rebuff to the (likely apocryphal but still powerful) remark of Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut who was the first man to ride a space capsule into Earth orbit, that there was no God in space.

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.

It was a moment of inspiration and serene beauty made possible by a mad hurry of improvisation and inspiration, of precision, preposterous ambition, and peril. Never did the space race seem more like a sprint than with Apollo 8. The crew, authors of what we might regard as the second-best Christmas story, had not trained for a circumlunar flight, but American space officials, ever wary of the space program of America's Cold War rival, picked up troubling signs that the Soviet Union was about to mount a manned mission to the moon. NASA decided to hurry up, though Robert C. Seamans Jr., the agency's deputy administrator, harbored beliefs that, as he put it, “such a mission in 1968 seemed at the edge of the envelope.”

Shots of the moon seemed to be the main attraction during the mission in 1968, but it was the image of Earth suspended in space that ultimately had the most impact. — Photograph: File/Associated Press.
Shots of the moon seemed to be the main attraction during the mission in 1968, but it was the image of Earth suspended in space
that ultimately had the most impact. — Photograph: File/Associated Press.

Indeed, Apollo 8 was a dramatic statement by NASA, reckless and audacious both. Three astronauts would sit atop the vast, new, and still balky rocket, the most powerful machine ever made in America, designed to power the craft out of Earth orbit and off at 25,000 miles per hour to our nearest celestial neighbor.

“This flight followed an unmanned Saturn V that had severe first-stage vibrations due to fuel sloshing around and two engines that failed in the second stage,” said Jay Apt, who flew four space shuttle missions, one as commander. “Then NASA decided to send men into lunar orbit. The decision was unbelievably breathtaking.”

The mission began routinely enough for something that was an entire departure from centuries of human routine.

“It was the moment when we really realized the moon was the next stepping-stone,” said Douglas Brinkley, the Rice University historian whose American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race is to be published in early April. “It just captured the nation and produced the most famous photograph of all time. It has permeated our culture far and wide. It was a turning point, and many people remember it as indelibly as the moon landing.”

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 darkness. 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.

“For us the importance of Apollo 8 was that they were going that far away from Earth for the first time humans had ever done so,” said Walt Cunningham, the lunar-module pilot on Apollo 7, which preceded Apollo 8 by 10 weeks, in a shakedown cruise that orbited the Earth. “We didn’t know whether the spacecraft could handle that.”

The dangers — that Apollo 8 might become the powerless plaything of the moon's gravity, or that any one element of its myriad systems might fail, or that the men might crash into the lunar surface or perish in Earth re-entry — now are yesteryear's fears. It is the seasonal sentiment the astronauts created, and the photograph Anders planted in the world's memory, that are as alive today as they were a half-century ago.

The “Earthrise” photograph showed our home planet in vivid colors, a stark contrast with the moon, which Lovell described as “a vastness of black and white — absolutely no color,” floating in space, that endless emptiness that Anders described as “a rather forbidding, foreboding expanse of blackness.”

It is perhaps the most famous photograph ever, in some ways the greatest self-portrait ever taken. It appeared on the front pages of newspapers, but also on magazine covers, and on a Postal Service stamp, and was taped to a thousand college dorm room walls, often with a quote from Robert F. Kennedy or Thomas Carlyle.

“It contributes to our understanding of the Earth,” said Jennifer Levasseur, a curator in the space-history department of the National Air and Space Museum who has completed a book on the cultural significance of astronaut photography. “This showed Earth in a completely different context from how it had been seen before by actual humans. It showed that we could do it — send people that far from Earth — and that we could record a photo that changed how we regarded ourselves in relationship to the Earth.”

As he saw the dramatic view from the moon, Astronaut Bill Anders scrambled to get color film, then took the famous shot. — Photograph: Bill Anders.
As he saw the dramatic view from the moon, Astronaut Bill Anders scrambled to get color film, then took the famous shot.
 — Photograph: Bill Anders.

And yet it was a case where human fumbling produced a picture that led to human humbling.

The astronauts hadn't been prepared for just how dramatic the view would be outside their window, and when the sight of Earth was visible in their porthole they knew they had to act. Borman took the first photograph, a black-and-white shot that had dramatic contrasts but lacked dramatic context. Anders asked Lovell to hand him a roll of color film. But where was it? Somewhere in a storage locker? Finally Lovell, rooting around desperately, found it, Anders shot the picture, and the world, 4.54 billion years old, seemed to change in an instant.

The photo was visual poetry, and it inspired poets. “To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats,” wrote Archibald MacLeish, the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and Franklin Roosevelt’s choice as librarian of Congress, “is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright liveliness in the eternal cold — brothers who know now they are truly brothers.”

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 day.

The biblical reading was not spontaneous, but it wasn't an obvious choice, either. The astronauts knew they would have the largest television audience ever, along with five or six minutes of airtime to fill with remarks that needed to be significant enough to match the moment. Borman struggled to think of something — anything — to watch the moment in eternity. He came up dry; astronauts' eloquence always came in their acts but not in their words, for at best Borman and his riders of repurposed military missiles and the mighty Saturn V booster were masters of the “what-a-view!” genre of visual commentary.

In their desperation, the astronauts contacted, in advance of the mission, Joseph Laitin, a long-serving government public affairs specialist revered in Washington and trusted for his advice by members of both Democratic and Republican presidents. The question taunted and tortured him, too. Finally, around 5 o'clock one morning, Laitin's wife, Christine, broke through with an idea. The 10-line fruit of that idea would reach the Earth after eight orbits of the moon.

It began with a simple introduction, an “in-the-beginning” of its own: “For all the people back on Earth,” Anders said, “the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.”

And then the astronauts read, in turn, from a Bible provided by the Gideons, the evangelical Christian society.

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 Seas; and God saw that it was good.

Shortly after the reading, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the nation's leading atheist, filed suit, charging that the recitation from the Bible represented a violation of the First Amendment separation of church and state. The suit went nowhere, and in fact not all atheists took issue with the astronauts' reading.

“It was a beautiful moment, and Genesis is part of our Western cultural heritage,” said Viktor Toth, an atheist and a senior research fellow at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, who played the lead role in the investigation of the Pioneer Anomaly, the mysterious acceleration of the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecrafts in deep space. “This was an awe-inspiring thing: Human beings for the first time cut off from the Earth, and then they re-emerged and saw the Earth again. The message was entirely appropriate.”

The Apollo 8 crew reunited earlier this year at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. From left: Anders, Lovell, and Borman. — Photograph: Chicago Museum of Science and Industry/Associated Press.
The Apollo 8 crew reunited earlier this year at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. From left: Anders, Lovell, and Borman.
 — Photograph: Chicago Museum of Science and Industry/Associated Press.

Three days later, President Lyndon B. Johnson placed a phone call to Susan Borman, wife of the mission commander. “When Sputnik came over the ranch many, many years ago, we had dreams of something like this,” he told her, his voice scratchy in the tapes in the Johnson Library. “But we never thought it could be so perfect.”

It wasn't perfect — no space mission is — but Apollo 8 provided the ideal coda to a year of despair.

“They were threading the needle,” Gene Krantz, the famous NASA mission-control officer, wrote later in his memoir, “shooting a spacecraft from a rotating Earth at the leading edge of the Moon, a moving target a quarter of a million miles away, passing 60 miles in front of it three days after launch.”

The ultimate fulfillment of John F. Kennedy's 1962 vow that Americans would land on the moon before the decade of the 1960s was over — “because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone” — would not come for another seven months. In July 1969, two Apollo 11 astronauts would take that small step that was the giant leap onto the moon's surface.

But it was during the flight of Apollo 8 that the country, like the astronauts, emerged, if only for a brief time, from the dark side. Days later, they were named TIME magazine's Men of the Year, pushing Richard Nixon, the original choice, off the cover at the very last moment.

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.

Eventually, of course, the astronauts began their descent into the atmosphere, into a political atmosphere of persistent earthly dissent. But they had produced a moment of pride at a time when there were few moments of American pride. It was a Christmas present to all on the good Earth, a gift that, 50 years on, keeps on giving.


• David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and an occasional correspondent to The Boston Globe.

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If you aren't living life on the edge, you're taking up too much space! 
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« Reply #3 on: December 25, 2018, 04:35:26 pm »

FFS Brucey the white trash commie moonbat please go and live on the moon
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