Apollo 8 Astronauts Share Christmas Eve Message While Orbiting the Moon

Apollo 8 Astronauts Share Christmas Eve Message While Orbiting the Moon

It was the night before Christmas 1968 when the Apollo 8 astronauts sent a message to “the good Earth” as they circled 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 challenge for a moon landing and the tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire, NASA made bold changes to Apollo 8, moving forward with a human lunar orbit mission.

The decision sent the crew to the Moon and back without a lunar module on the first human space flight on the Saturn V rocket and with a single engine in the capsule to bring them back home.

After launch on December 21, 1968, Borman, Lovell and Anders reached lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, orbiting the lunar surface 10 times.

As the crew emerged from behind the Moon in the first orbit, the Apollo 8 astronauts shared images of the Moon and Earth, including the view of Earth’s departure from more than 240,000 miles away . The image of the Earth with the moon below it became one of the most famous images of the Apollo era, according to NASA.

Fast forward more than 50 years to December 2022 and NASA Orion spacecraftdesigned to get the next humans to the moon, also shared a similar view of Earthrise.

NASA administrators had told the Apollo 8 astronauts to prepare to share some words with the world that would be broadcast worldwide. The crew was given creative freedom to choose what to say, but was told “to do something appropriate,” Borman said in a 2008 interview.

With this in mind, they chose to read the first 10 verses of the Book of Genesis.

Lovell said years later that the message was chosen because of its universal meaning.


“The first ten verses of Genesis are the basis of many of the world’s religions, not just the Christian religion,” Lovell said in 2008. “There are more people in other religions than the Christian religion all over the world, and so it would be fitting for that, and that’s how it happened.”

When the Apollo 8 capsule orbited the Moon more than 240,000 miles from Earth, each astronaut took turns reading verses.

“From the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, merry Christmas, and may God bless you all, all of you on good Earth.”

The broadcast was 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 hear whether the Apollo 8 engine burned out to leave the moon’s orbit working. .

After the successful engine burn, Lovell said to mission control, “Roger, please let me know there’s a Santa Claus.”

The Apollo 8 capsule splashed down on December 27, 1968 in the Pacific Ocean.

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