During the early years of the Space Race, the Soviet Union and the United States had pulled off some daring feats: the first man in space, the first walks in space, the first docking between two spacecraft.
But a mission that was under way 50 years ago today was the most audacious of them all. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders were on their way to the Moon — the first mission to our satellite world.
NASA had launched the first Apollo astronauts just a couple of months earlier. They stayed in Earth orbit. But their flight provided confidence in the Apollo mothership. At the same time, the CIA was reporting that the Soviets were planning to send a cosmonaut around the Moon before the end of the year. So the space agency decided to send Apollo 8 to lunar orbit.
LOI was a rocket firing to settle the craft into orbit. It took place behind the Moon, out of contact with Earth. But everything worked perfectly — allowing the crew to enjoy a sight that no human eye had ever seen before: a close-range view of the lunar surface.
Apollo 8 orbited the Moon 10 times, highlighted by a TV broadcast on Christmas Eve. More about that tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield