Apollo 8 was the first human spaceflight to leave Earth orbit; the first to be captured by and escape from the gravitational field of another celestial body; and the first crewed voyage to return to planet Earth from another celestial body—Earth's Moon. The three-man American crew of mission Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first humans to directly see the far side of the Moon, as well as the first humans to see planet Earth from beyond low Earth orbit. The 1968 mission was accomplished with the first manned launch of a Saturn V rocket. Apollo 8 was the second manned mission of the Apollo program and the first manned launch from the John F. Kennedy Space Center.
Originally planned as a second Lunar Module/Command Module test in an elliptical medium Earth orbit in early 1969, the mission profile was changed in August 1968 to a more ambitious Command Module-only lunar orbital flight to be flown in December, because the Lunar Module was not ready to make its first flight then. This meant Borman's crew was scheduled to fly two to three months sooner than originally planned, leaving them a shorter time for training and preparation, thus placing more demands than usual on their time and discipline.
After launching on December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 took three days to travel to the Moon. It orbited ten times over the course of 20 hours, during which the crew made a Christmas Eve television broadcast in which they read the first 10 verses from the Book of Genesis. At the time, the broadcast was the most watched TV program ever. Apollo 8's successful mission paved the way for Apollo 11 to fulfill U.S. President John F. Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.
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