Famous Christmases in History

Apollo 8 Orbits the Moon: Famous Christmases in History #6

Apollo 8 Orbits the Moon: Famous Christmases in History #6

The adventure of the Apollo 8 spacecraft on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1968 was one that captivated the world. Initially meant to be a simple Earth orbit mission, the mission was changed at the last minute to go to the moon and orbit that, instead. It was the first time this had been done. This is the story of that historic mission that your ancestors may have watched on their TVs.


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People all over the world have long been fascinated with space travel. It is still something that is a relatively new invention in human history, so it is natural that we would be excited by it, even if we are just watching it happen on TV and not actually doing it ourselves. This was certainly the case when the three astronauts aboard the Apollo 8 spacecraft entered into the orbit of the moon on Christmas Eve in 1968.

Astronauts Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and William Anders spent Christmas Eve orbiting the moon in Apollo 8. This was not the original intent of the mission. Apollo 8 was meant to test the fitness of the lunar module that would later be used in the moon landing on Apollo 11 to be in Earth’s orbit. Yet, the work on Apollo 8 fell behind schedule, and when it did, the people in charge of the project at NASA decided to change the mission from a few orbits around the Earth to going all the way to the moon. 

Because of this ambitious and unprecedented change in plans, Apollo 8 was able to do things that no one had previously done in the short history of manned space flight. The three astronauts onboard the spacecraft became the first men to leave the gravitational pull of the Earth, as well as the first ones to orbit the moon, the first ones to be able to view the entire planet Earth from space, and the first ones to see the mysterious dark side of the moon. It was a pretty impressive mission for one that had been arranged on the spur of the moment, and it was also an extraordinarily ambitious risk for NASA to take with a spacecraft that was not designed for any of the things they decided to make it do.



The three astronauts onboard Apollo 8 gave a now famous broadcast to the Earth when they entered the orbit of the moon. People viewing the adventure on TV at home were shown pictures of both the moon itself and the Earth as seen from the moon’s orbit. The three Apollo astronauts read the opening lines from the Book of Genesis in the Bible as part of their broadcast home. It seemed an appropriate thing to do for a Christmas broadcast. 

This broadcast ended with the now famous words from the astronauts, “Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.” The broadcast of Apollo 8’s unprecedented adventure became one of the most watched television broadcasts in history to that point. It was certainly a broadcast to remember, and became one of those events in history where everyone who saw it always remembered where they were when it happened. This amazing Christmas space mission changed the scope and ability of space travel forever. After this, there was nothing the scientists and astronauts at NASA believed they could not do. So far, this has proved true.


 

Will Moneymaker

Will established Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has been involved in helping genealogy researchers for over 25 years through Ancestral Findings.