the first human lunar orbital flight, was the most important space
achievement leading to the Moon landing by Apollo 11. Two months
after the return of Apollo 7, the Saturn V launch vehicle was used
for the first time on a piloted flight. The voyage covered about
804,700km (500,000 miles), including ten orbits of the Moon over a
period of 16 hours. The total time of the mission was 147 hours
(just over six days).
Apollo 8 was the second human flight in the program
and the first human lunar orbit mission. It was the first manned
flight using a
Saturn V launch vehicle. Astronauts Frank Borman,
James A. Lovell Jr. and William A. Anders became the first humans
to see the far side of the Moon. Lift Off Saturn V Dec. 21, 1968
7:51 a.m. EST Splash-down Dec. 27, 1968 10:51 a.m. EST Pacific
Apollo 8 was the first mission to take humans to
the Moon and back. An important prelude to actually landing on the
Moon was testing the flight trajectory and operations for getting
there and back. Apollo 8 did this and acheived many other firsts
including the first manned mission launched on the Saturn V, first
manned launch from NASA's new Moonport, first pictures taken by
humans of the Earth from deep space, and first live TV coverage of
the lunar surface.
December 21-27, 1968
Crew: Frank Borman,
James A. Lovell Jr and William A. Anders
Back-up crew for this mission were
Armstrong (back-up commander), Edwin E. Aldrin (back-up command module
pilot), and Fred W. Haise Jr. (back-up lunar module pilot).
The astronauts on Apollo 8
were the first people to view the entire Earth from space and the first to see
the back side of the Moon. Apollo 8 was also the first piloted flight to escape
Earth's gravitational field and be influenced by the Moon's gravity.
The astronauts transmitted
stirring observations from lunar orbit, describing the desolate lunar landscape
that made Earth seem, by comparison, a grand oasis and reading passages from the
Book of Genesis on Christmas Eve, 1968.
Apollo 8 emerged from the
far side of the Moon for the last time as Lovell announced the successful firing
of its reentry propulsion system - the only way it could return to Earth - with
the words "Please be informed there is a Santa Claus". Splashdown in the Pacific
was successfully executed on December 27. Although Soviet probes Zond 5 and Zond
6 of September and November respectively had suggested that the Soviets were
close to a piloted mission, Apollo 8 proved that the United States was clearly
the leader in space.
Did you know?
Apollo 8 Mission Patch
Apollo was a three-part spacecraft:
the command module (CM), the crew's quarters and flight control
section; the service module (SM) for the propulsion and spacecraft
support systems (when together, the two modules are called
CSM); and the lunar module (LM), to take two of the crew to the
lunar surface, support them on the Moon, and return them to the
CSM in lunar orbit.
The flight mode, lunar orbit rendezvous, was selected in 1962. The
boosters for the program were the Saturn IB for Earth orbit
flights and the Saturn V for lunar flights.
* Apollo 8, which flew in
December 1968, was the first U.S. human space flight on which eating utensils
were used. Before Apollo 8, food and beverages were consumed through a straw or
tube or were eaten by hand.
* Apollo 8 was also the
first human space flight to orbit the Moon, which it did 10 times over a period
of 20 hours. In addition to demonstrating many of the Apollo spacecraft systems,
Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders took photographs of the
Earth and the Moon and transmitted live TV broadcasts.