Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Apollo 8 - Forty-five Years Later

While not all may care for noting the anniversary of every aerospace milestone, today is the 45th anniversary of one that will not go unremembered here. Multiples of five years are not too frequent to recall the truly important ones.

Launched on Dec. 21, 1968, Apollo 8, crewed by Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders, orbited Earth’s natural satellite for the first time. 

The second manned flight in the Apollo program, it was preceded less than 2 months earlier by Apollo 7 an Earth orbital mission that proved out the Command and Service Module, and marked the recovery from the loss of Grissom, White and Chafee in Apollo 1.

On Christmas Eve, 1968 man for the first time looked back and viewed the blue marble we all call home.  Things have never been quite the same since it was first viewed this way, including the first Earth Day, a scant 5 months later.  Within the following eight months Apollo 9 tested the Lunar Module in earth orbit and Apollo 10 in lunar orbit.  The culmination of the charge given by President Kennedy only six years earlier to "... go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
The image that affected the world-view of almost everyone that has seen it is:

It was not seen by man until the 4th orbit and was nearly missed again.  The story of how it was captured is told here along with a marvelous simulation of how it came to be.  (That such imagery is taken for granted by those jaded by modern video games is best appreciated by those of us who remember a cardboard cutout  moved along a slot in a giant map in a TV studio or NASA's then cool, now crude conventional; B&W film animations.

A bit later the Apollo 8 crew pointed the video camera out a window at Earth so we could all share. It will always be worth viewing and listening to. 

Merry Christmas to all, all of us on the good Earth.

David Martin,
1st Lt, CAP
Sq 150 Training Officer