Local veteran remembers witnessing Apollo 8 landing

Apollo 8: Around The Moon and Back

On Christmas Eve 1968, the first humans to circle the moon aboard Apollo 8 sent back the first image of the Earth above the lunar surface.

"NASA usually went step-by-step". During the six-day mission, those things seemed to fade away as people were captivated by what they saw and heard. Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders were focused on something else: becoming the first humans to reach the moon's orbit and return safely.

KELLY: Yeah. Does it ever bug you, by the way, that you got that close and you never got to walk on the moon?

It's been 50 years since the Apollo 8 mission. This historic mission launched on December 21, 1968 to demonstrate a lunar trajectory and was the first crewed launch of the Saturn V rocket.

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Borman was thrilled at the chance to beat the Soviet Union into lunar orbit, scoring a key win in the Cold War. "Gus" Grissom, an IN native and Purdue University graduate; Edward H. White II; and Roger B. Chaffee, another Purdue graduate, perish IN a cabin fire during a launch test, postponing future Apollo flights 20 months until Apollo 7 returned Americans to space IN October 1968. NOVA's animation makes clear why the solution worked.

Leaving the Moon, Apollo 8 got this incredible view of the Moon's terminator, the line where lunar day fades to night.

And they had to create the first real-time embedded computing system, controlled by punching codes into a display keyboard. Now known as "Earthrise", the iconic image shows the Earth rising above the limb of the Moon, as taken by the crew of Apollo 8.

We'd been following the Apollo 8 mission during Christmas week and knew it was the most important yet. Anders is surprisingly not for sending humans to explore Mars. "Look at that picture over there!" The earth is coming up. "Wow, is that pretty!". "Nobody told me to take a picture of the Earth", Anders said later.

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But Anders did take the picture, first in black-and-white, and then in color.

The Apollo 8 mission was just the second crewed outing for the type of spacecraft that would ferry astronauts to the first lunar landing the following year.

"Earthrise", as it would be called, went viral, or as viral as anything could in 1968, a time that saw all sorts of photographs leave their mark on the national consciousness, a lot of them scars: The South Vietnamese general pointing his pistol at the soldier's head, point blank; the busboy tending to Robert F. Kennedy's lifeless body; the civil rights activists on the motel balcony pointing in the direction of Martin Luther King Jr.'s killer. 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 idea of a Spaceship Earth, with its interdependent ecologies and finite resources, became an icon of a growing environmental movement concerned with the ecological impacts of industrialization and population growth.

They splashed down in the Pacific on December 27.

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The Apollo 8 mission was followed up with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. And for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 have a message that we would like to send to you. "This was the first digital computer in nearly anything". We are still wrestling with food security and sustainable agriculture, the next 50 years will be a roller coaster'. There's no way commercial space ventures such as SpaceX and Blue Origin could do what they're doing without advanced software tools, plus the frontier-pushing mindset that has guided the careers of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and so many others.

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