“And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.”
As a small boy, I avidly watched the Apollo space program. I am glad that I developed my interest before Apollo 11 landed in 1969, so that I was able to watch each new mission with eager anticipation.
Apollo 8 broke new ground and made it obvious that NASA was determined in its pledge to get people on to the Moon. Launched on December 21, 1968, this was a Christmas mission, taking nearly three days to reach the Moon. This was an experimental flight, and NASA was not yet ready to get its astronauts to land, but it was the first occasion that human beings had ever left Earth orbit to reach another world. Just short of three days after launch, the crew set the rocket engines burning for exactly four minutes seven seconds to get the craft into orbit around the Moon.
The lunar orbit created a number of exciting firsts. The orbit took Apollo 8 around the back of the Moon. The Moon has a synchronous rotation, so it always keeps one side permanently facing the Earth. Therefore, the back of the Moon is always hidden from the Earth. This was, therefore, the first time that human beings had gazed directly on the Moon’s hidden side. Then, as the craft returned to the visible side, they experience the beauty of an Earthrise.
The mission was notable for the December 24th Christmas broadcast, during which the astronauts William Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman read the first ten verses of Genesis 1 between them. This was a fitting tribute and reminded us that it was God that made the Moon.