By Dan Shine
The First Christmas in Space
Aboard Apollo 8
Space travel has become so routine that some of us cannot remember a time when it generated great excitement and captured the imagination of the world–a time when the world stopped what they were doing to observe some great event that was taking place up there in the heavens.
On Dec. 21, 1968, The United States launched Apollo 8, a three-man craft (yes, in 1968, all astronauts were still men). The craft entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, and the astronauts made the following broadcast from 240,000 miles above the earth, somewhere up there in the darkness. The words that follow, and the astronauts’ live images were witnessed by as many as one billion people worldwide:
William A. Anders — We are now approaching lunar sunrise. And for all the people back on earth, the crew of Apollo 8 have a message that we would like to send to you.
“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”
James A. Lovell, Jr — “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
Frank Borman —“And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the seas: and God saw that it was good.”
“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close, with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good earth.”