Science

Apollo 8 mission fifty years on

Apollo 8 mission fifty years on

Across the country, Americans sat glued to their televisions, listening to voices beaming down from outer space.

"Some of the odds of trying to be successful in that mission are overwhelming, and perhaps at that time we didn't even understand what the odds were", he said. Wow, is that pretty!' said Anders, the crew's lead photographer.

A few days later - on Christmas Eve Houston time, Christmas Day in Canberra - the three astronauts had just passed over the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon and were approaching a lunar sunrise when they sent back a historic Christmas message to the people of Earth. We followed their careers as if they were rock stars, watching launch after launch, splash down after splash down, mourning when three of them died before ever taking off, cheering with each success.

WILLIAM ANDERS: In the beginning, God created the heaven and the Earth. "And darkness was upon the face of the deep..." "I do think there's a lot of hype about Mars that is nonsense", Borman said during the radio interview.

KELLY: Jim Lovell is now 90.

By July 1969, Apollo 8 was overshadowed by Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin moon landing. "I'm not a very popular guy at NASA for saying that, but that's what I think". But he expressed skepticism about the plans of Space X founder Elon Musk and Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos to send private missions to Mars.

JIM LOVELL: And it was actually his wife.




LOVELL:.Which is really the basis of.

Seeing so much of the Earth, all at once, provides them with a view where borders all but vanish, and the unsafe and accelerating changes we are making to our environment become all too apparent. "Look at that picture over there!" There were all yelling for cameras, and we started snapping away. We were thinking about reciting the Genesis. Landing on the moon, once the competition was over and we'd beaten the Soviets, it was kind of like last year's World Series results. "I happened to catch something out of the corner of my eye, and here was this lovely orb that was even more attractive when compared against the very stark, ugly background of the lunar surface". He yawned - loudly enough for the cockpit tape to capture the sound - and when the spacecraft was in position, took a moment to enjoy both the silence in his headset and the new view outside his window. Lovell, who was never quite so happy as when he was in space, saw the mission as the stuff of Lewis and Clark.

KELLY:.You went around to the back side of the moon. It was taken shortly after the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy; amid the turbulence of the Vietnam War and the escalating Cold War with Russian Federation. People have described afterward that listening to those words from the three of you were a unifying moment.

The year 1968 is remembered for its unprecedented accomplishments: success of the Apollo program and the passage of the Civil Rights Act. That flight was the most demanding, he said, "But Apollo 8 was the one of exploration, the one of repeating the Lewis and Clark expedition ... finding the new Earth". The biggest gift that we gave was to the American public, to be eventually proud to be an American.

Mindell also argues that Apollo 8 set the stage for America's primacy on another technological frontier.

Borman was thrilled at the chance to beat the Soviet Union into lunar orbit, scoring a key win in the Cold War.

That's what I'm asking for this year. 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".


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