Apollo 8

Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth’s low orbit. Apollo 8, launched on December 21, 1968. It was also the first human spaceflight to reach another astronomical object, the Moon.

Apollo 8 was the second crew of NASA’s Apollo program. The astronauts on board were Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders. They became the first people to see and manage to capture an Earthrise on film. The success of the spacecraft gave the United States hope during the Cold War against the Soviet Union where the Russians were strong opponents.

It was also the first time the Saturn V rocket was used in a manned spaceflight.

Apollo 8 crew
Apollo 8 crew


Apollo 8 launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida.

Apollo 8’s main purpose was to reach and round the moon.

During space travel, they orbited the moon 10 times.

Initially, Apollo 8 was intended to be flown in a medium-sized orbit around the Earth, but plans were changed in August 1968. US President John F Kennedy was  concerned about the Soviet Union, which had already sent Sputnik and triggered the space race. The spacecraft had three main parts: the command module which had a cabin for the three astronauts, a service module for propulsion and a lunar module. The Saturn V rocket, the launch vehicle, would perform the launch.

The mission

After launch, Apollo 8 was placed in a low orbit around the earth and then moved into an orbit to the moon.

Eleven hours after the launch, the crew had been awake for 16 hours. It was time for Borman to begin his first seven-hour sleep period. NASA had decided that there would always be at least one crew member awake to be able to quickly take care of unexpected things that could happen. The radio communication   made it difficult for Borman to sleep and he was given permission to take a sleeping pill, but it did not help much. Sleeping in weightlessness can be difficult. He later described how he woke up with something of a shock and a feeling that he had fallen.

One of the astronauts became ill on board just 18 hours after launch. It was Borman and he struggled with vomiting and diarrhea. He felt better after some sleeping, but as a precaution, the other crew members contacted the ground and explained Borman’s situation. NASA conducted a medical consultation for Borman. Bormans quickly got better and then NASA gave its approval to continue on with the mission.

As the spacecraft approached the moon, astronauts described the Earth’s only satellite. The moon is basically gray, no color, said Lovell about the surface of the moon.

Apollo 8 orbits the moon during the Christmas holiday and the crew sent TV pictures back to Earth. At the time, this was the most watched TV show ever.

The Journey Back

On Christmas morning, Apollo 8 left its lunar orbit and began its journey back to Earth, landing safely in the Pacific Ocean on December 27. Apollo 8 returned safely to Earth after an historic six-day journey.

The symbol for the Apollo 8 mission was a red 8 figure circled around the moon and earth.