Apollo 8

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Apollo 8, 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

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 Ocean.

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 Neil 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 Patch

Picture of 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 Command Space Module 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.


Apollo 15 DVD Picture

  Apollo DVD - selection of dvds

The Dish: Australian Movie

Lunar Exploration: Human Pioneers and Robotic Surveyors
by Paolo Ulivi, David M Harland

Covers unmanned programmes, eg Ranger and other moon probes. Looks at recent lunar exploration and future plans.


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Updated: Tuesday 1st, April, 2014