Saturday, February 21

He never lost a man

On Christmas Eve 1968, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders took their Apollo 8 spacecraft around the back of the Moon and fired its SPS engine to, for the first time, orbit the Moon. This was a bold mission. The LM wasn’t ready, so couldn’t be tested in Earth orbit, as was planned. Mission planners decided (under some pressure from Soviet advances) to send the CSM to the Moon to test navigation and communications and to demonstrate manouvers such as trans-lunar and trans-earth injection.

It was on this mission that Jim Lovell, later Commander of Apollo 13, named ‘Mount Marilyn’ in honour of his wife. Lovell was fated to pass the Moon twice, but never to land. His leadership of Apollo 13 is regarded as similar to the leadership Ernest Shackleton offered on the Endurance expedition in 1914-1916. He never lost a man.

It was on this mission that people first saw ‘Earth rise’. Reading the astronauts’ words (mission elapsed time 075:47:30) as they come over the lunar horizon to see the Earth rising gives some idea of the excitement they felt. Imagine. The photographs they took are now iconic and perhaps, as much as anything, kick-started the environmental movement.

Apollo 8 is also famed for a moving reading from Genesis the astronauts made as they entered Lunar sunrise.

“086:06:40 Anders: We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has 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 upon 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.

086:07:29 Lovell: 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 in the midst of the waters. And let it divide the waters from the waters.” And God made the 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.

086:08:07 Borman: And God said, “Let the waters under the Heavens 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 he 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.”

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