– NASA Press Release –
Christmas Eve, 1968.
As one of the most turbulent, tragic years in American history drew to a close, millions around the world were watching and listening as the Apollo 8 astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders — became the first humans to orbit another world.
As their command module floated above the lunar surface, the astronauts beamed back images of the moon and Earth and took turns reading from the book of Genesis, closing with a wish for everyone “on the good Earth.”
The crew entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts held a live broadcast, showing pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft.
“We were told that on Christmas Eve we would have the largest audience that had ever listened to a human voice,” recalled Borman during 40th anniversary celebrations in 2008. “And the only instructions that we got from NASA was to do something appropriate.”
The crew rocketed into orbit on December 21, and after circling the moon 10 times on Christmas Eve, it was time to come home. On Christmas morning, mission control waited anxiously for word that Apollo 8’s engine burn to leave lunar orbit had worked.
The crew splashed down in the Pacific on December 27. A lunar landing was still months away, but for the first time ever, humans from Earth had visited the moon and returned home safely.
America had come through a tumultuous year of social and political upheaval. Riots in the street, escalation of the war in Vietnam, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy had left the nation reeling. It seemed as if God had removed His hand of favor from the United States. It is said that when the Apollo 8 astronauts read from the Book of Genesis that you could hear a pin drop in every corner of the earth. In those brief moments the peace of God reigned in the hearts of people on every continent.
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