Apollo 8 astronauts shared a message on Christmas Eve while orbiting the moon

Apollo 8 astronauts shared a message on Christmas Eve while orbiting the moon

Apollo 8 astronauts shared a message on Christmas Eve while orbiting the moon

It was the night before Christmas in 1968 when the Apollo 8 astronauts beamed back a message for “good Earth” as they orbited the Moon.

NASA Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders were the first to orbit the Earth Moon on December 24, 1968.

With mounting pressure under President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to a moon landing and the tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire, NASA made bold changes to Apollo 8, to continue a human mission in lunar orbit.

The decision sent the crew to the moon and back without a lunar module on the first manned spaceflight of the Saturn V rocket and with a single engine on the capsule to take them back home.

After launching on December 21, 1968, Borman, Lovell, and Anders arrived in lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, circling the lunar surface 10 times.

As the crew moved out from behind the moon in the first orbit, the Apollo 8 astronauts shared images of the moon and Earth, including the view of Earthrise more than 150,000 miles away. The image of the Earth with the moon below became one of the most famous images from the Apollo era, according to NASA.

Fast forward more than 50 years to December 2022 and NASA’s Orion spacecraftdesigned to take the next people to the moon, also shared a similar image of Earthrise.

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

With that 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 significance.


“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 religions other than the Christian religion around the world, and so this would be fitting with that, and so that’s how it happened.”

As 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 god bless you all, all of you on the 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 if the Apollo 8 engine was burning to leave lunar orbit.

After the successful engine burn, Lovell told mission control, “Roger, keep in mind there’s Santa Claus.”

The Apollo 8 capsule crashed into the Pacific Ocean on December 27, 1968.

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