Apollo 8 Fiftieth Anniversary Approaches

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The first voyage beyond low Earth orbit was undertaken by the crew of Apollo 8, launched on December 21, 1968. The background on the decision to go for a mission to orbit the Moon rather than just a manned test of the spacecraft in low Earth orbit is explored in the article linked below. The Soviets "helped" with that decision. :)

"Spooky Apollo: Apollo 8 and the CIA" | The Space Review


Time Magazine cover from early December and the unused printing plate for the early January edition of Newsweek [reversed for ease of viewing] in the event that the Apollo 8 mission failed and the astronauts died.​

In early December 1968, Time magazine ran a cover story titled “Race for the Moon” featuring an astronaut and cosmonaut sprinting towards the Moon. Just a few weeks later, Newsweek magazine featured a cover story about the Apollo 8 mission titled “Apollo Triumph.” But the editors had also created an alternative cover with the words “Apollo Tragedy” that, fortunately, was never used. What the two major news magazines reflected was both the belief that the United States and Russia were neck and neck in competition, and that the Apollo 8 mission was highly risky and could end tragically.

This December marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission around the Moon, and that event has been commemorated in many ways the past few months. It was a courageous effort by the Apollo 8 astronauts, but also a bold and risky decision by NASA officials to send them on that journey. Over the decades, many historians have focused on the decision to send Apollo 8 around the Moon. The two major drivers were the availability of the Lunar Module—which had fallen behind schedule—and unmanned Soviet space missions that were clearly tests of their circumlunar spacecraft, called Zond.

Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman in early August 1968 received orders to go to Houston immediately. “I flew a T-38 to Houston and walked into Deke’s office. I knew something was up when he asked me to close the door,” Borman wrote in his 1988 autobiography.

“We just got word from the CIA that the Russians are planning a lunar fly-by before the end of the year,” Deke Slayton told him. “We want to change Apollo 8 from an earth orbital to a lunar orbital flight. I know that doesn’t give us much time, so I have to ask you: Do you want to do it or not?”

Yes, Borman replied.

“I found out later that the Soviets were a hell of a lot closer to a manned lunar mission than we would have liked. Only about a month after I talked to Slayton, the Russians sent an unmanned spacecraft, Zond 5, into lunar orbit and returned it safely to earth.”

In the 1960s the CIA, the NSA, and other intelligence agencies were closely monitoring the Soviet space program, trying to discern what they were doing.

[Continues . . .]
 
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Today (21 December) is the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 8.

"Apollo 8: NASA’s first moonshot was a bold and terrifying improvisation" | Florida Times-Union

Walter Cronkite held a tiny model of the Apollo 8 spacecraft and strode across a darkened studio where two dangling spheres represented Earth and the moon. This was the CBS Evening News, Dec. 20, 1968, and three Apollo 8 astronauts were scheduled to blast off the following morning on a huge Saturn V rocket. Cronkite explained that the astronauts would fly for three days to the vicinity of the moon, fire an engine to slow the spacecraft and enter lunar orbit, circle the moon 10 times, then fire the engine a final time to return to Earth and enter the atmosphere at 25,000 miles per hour.

“They must come in at JUST the right angle. If they come in too steeply, they will be CRUSHED in the Earth’s atmosphere. If they come in too shallow, they will SKIP OUT and go into Earth orbit and not be able to return,” Cronkite said.

Fifty years later, it’s hard to remember how mind-blowing Apollo 8 was, and how scary. No space mission had ever presented so many exotic ways to kill astronauts. Before the launch, a NASA official was overheard imagining what might go wrong: “Just how do we tell Susan Borman, ‘Frank is stranded in orbit around the moon’?”

Apollo 8 was the first moonshot. No human being had ever been beyond low Earth orbit. Even the Apollo 8 astronauts - Frank Borman, James Lovell Jr. and Bill Anders - struggled to wrap their heads around what they were about to do.

They shared their final prelaunch lunch with Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, at Cape Kennedy. “Think, it’s hard to believe, this time tomorrow we’ll be on our way to the moon,” one of the astronauts said, according to Morrow Lindbergh’s subsequent article in LIFE magazine.

What’s more, Apollo 8 was improvisational. It wasn’t even supposed to be a mission to the moon.

“It was an extraordinarily bold decision,” says Teasel Muir-Harmony, curator of Apollo Spacecraft at the National Air and Space Museum.

“One of the most risky decisions in the history of spaceflight” is the verdict of historian Asif Siddiqi of Fordham University.

[Continues . . .]
If the above link is geoblocked, it's also in The Washington Post, though that site only allows a few articles per month before it puts up a paywall.

The iconic image taken during this flight is "Earthrise," taken by Apollo 8 crewman William Anders.

 

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Network television broadcast including footage from Apollo 8 on December 23, 1968, as the spacecraft approaches the Moon. For this broadcast, unlike the first, they were able to show images of the Earth as seen from Apollo 8.


Notes from the NASA Wikia page on Apollo 8:

"The Apollo 8 made a second television broadcast at 55 hours into the flight. This time, the crew rigged up filters meant for the still cameras so they could acquire images of the Earth through the telephoto lens. Although difficult to aim, as they had to maneuver the entire spacecraft, the crew was able to broadcast back to Earth the first television pictures of the Earth. The crew spent the transmission describing the Earth and what was visible and the colors they could see. The transmission lasted 23 minutes.

"At about 55 hours and 40 minutes into the flight, the crew of Apollo 8 became the first humans to enter the gravitational sphere of influence of another celestial body. In other words, the effect of the Moon's gravitational force on Apollo 8 became stronger than that of the Earth. At the time it happened, Apollo 8 was 38,759 miles (Template:Convert/round km) from the Moon and had a speed of 3,990 ft/s (Template:Convert/round m/s) relative to the Moon.[16] This historic moment was of little interest to the crew since they were still calculating their trajectory with respect to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. They would continue to do so until they performed their last mid-course correction, switching to a reference frame based on ideal orientation for the second engine burn they would make in lunar orbit. It was only 13 hours until they would be in lunar orbit."​
 
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On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 entered orbit around the Moon. Below is network coverage of the television broadcast from that day.


From the NASA Wikia page a description of the spacecraft entering lunar orbit, as well as a description of William Anders taking the famous photo shown in post #2 above:

"At 64 hours into the flight, the crew began to prepare for Lunar Orbit Insertion-1 (LOI-1). This maneuver had to be performed perfectly, and due to orbital mechanics had to be on the far side of the Moon, out of contact with the Earth. After Mission Control was polled for a "go/no go" decision, the crew was told at 68 hours, they were Go and "riding the best bird we can find". At 68 hours and 58 minutes, the spacecraft went behind the Moon and out of radio contact with the Earth.

"With 10 minutes before the LOI-1, the crew began one last check of the spacecraft systems and made sure that every switch was in the correct place. At that time, they finally got their first glimpses of the Moon. They had been flying over the unlit side, and it was Lovell who saw the first shafts of sunlight obliquely illuminating the lunar surface. The LOI burn was only two minutes away, so the crew had little time to appreciate the view.

"The SPS [Service Propulsion System] ignited at 69 hours, 8 minutes, and 16 seconds after launch and burned for 4 minutes and 13 seconds, placing the Apollo 8 spacecraft in orbit around the Moon. The crew described the burn as being the longest four minutes of their lives. If the burn had not lasted exactly the correct amount of time, the spacecraft could have ended up in a highly elliptical lunar orbit or even flung off into space. If it lasted too long they could have struck the Moon. After making sure the spacecraft was working, they finally had a chance to look at the Moon, which they would orbit for the next 20 hours.

"On Earth, Mission Control continued to wait. If the crew had not burned the engine or the burn had not lasted the planned length of time, the crew would appear early from behind the Moon. However, this time came and went without Apollo 8 reappearing. Exactly at the calculated moment, the signal was received from the spacecraft, indicating it was in a 193.3-by-69.5-mile orbit about the Moon.

[. . .]

"When the spacecraft came out from behind the Moon for its fourth pass across the front, the crew witnessed "Earthrise" for the first time in human history (NASA's Lunar Orbiter 1 took the very first picture of an Earthrise from the vicinity of the Moon, on August 23, 1966). Borman saw the Earth emerging from behind the lunar horizon and called in excitement to the others, taking a black-and-white photo as he did so. In the ensuing scramble Anders took the more famous color photo, later picked by Life magazine magazine as one of its hundred photos of the century. Due to the synchronous rotation of the Moon about the Earth, Earthrise is not generally visible from the lunar surface. Earthrise is generally only visible when orbiting the Moon, other than at selected places near the Moon's limb, where libration carries the Earth slightly above and below the lunar horizon."​

In the television broadcast the crew describe the lunar surface, then read from the Book of Genesis. This was the choice of the crew themselves. Nonetheless, in a somewhat mean-spirited gesture, the administrator of NASA was later sued by Madeline Murray O'Hair on a 1st Amendment (freedom of religion) basis. The suit was dismissed, and after appeal the US Supreme Court dismissed it as well.
 

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On December 27, 1968, the Apollo 8 crew reentered the Earth's atmosphere in their spacecraft and landed safely in the Pacific Ocean only three miles from the rescue vessel, USS Yorktown.

From the previously cited page:

"Once the Command Module was separated from the Service Module, the astronauts were committed to re-entry. Six minutes before they hit the top of the atmosphere, the crew saw the Moon rising above the Earth's horizon, just as had been predicted by the trajectory specialists. As they hit the thin outer atmosphere they noticed it was becoming hazy outside as glowing plasma formed around the spacecraft. The spacecraft started slowing down and the deceleration peaked at 6 g. With the computer controlling the descent by changing the attitude of the spacecraft, Apollo 8 rose briefly like a skipping stone before descending to the ocean. At 30,000 feet the drogue parachute stabilized the spacecraft and was followed at 10,000 feet by the three main parachutes. The spacecraft splashdown position was officially reported as in the North Pacific Ocean south of Hawaii.

"When it hit the water, the parachutes dragged the spacecraft over and left it upside down, in what was termed Stable 2 position. About six minutes later the Command Module was righted into its normal apex-up splashdown orientation by the inflatable bag uprighting system. As they were buffeted by a 10-foot swell, Borman was sick, waiting for the three flotation balloons to right the spacecraft. It was 43 minutes after splashdown before the first frogman from the USS Yorktown arrived, as the spacecraft had landed before sunrise. Forty-five minutes later, the crew was safe on the deck of the aircraft carrier."​



The Apollo 8 Command Module is retrieved from the ocean.​

Reminisces of Apollo 8 crewmen on their experiences splashing down in the Pacific --

"Frank Borman told the story of Apollo 8's reentry:

"'We hit the water with a real bang! I mean it was a big, big bang! And when we hit, we all got inundated with water. I don't know whether it came in one of the vents or whether it was just moisture that had collected on the environmental control system. ... Here were the three of us, having just come back from the moon, we're floating upside down in very rough seas -- to me, rough seas.'

"Borman had argued for a night landing to reduce the number of orbits around the moon and decrease the risk of anything going wrong. Because of the timing, they had to wait an hour and a half until dawn before Navy helicopters would drop frogmen into the water and recover the astronauts.

"Borman: 'Of course, in consternation to Bill and Jim, I got good and seasick and threw up all over everything at that point.'

"Anders: 'Jim and I didn't give him an inch, you know, we [Naval Academy graduates] pointed out to him and the world, that he was from West Point, what did you expect? But nonetheless, he did his job admirably. But by now the spacecraft was a real mess you know, not just from him but from all of us. You can't imagine living in something that close; it's like being in an outhouse and after a while you just don't care, you know, and without getting into detail... messy. But we didn't smell anything...

"'[Frogmen] jumped in and swam up and inflated various flotation devices to stabilize the spacecraft. And then using a special tool unlocked the hatch and I can remember this young frogman, Navy Seal, pulling the hatch back and poking his head in and then, with a shocked look kind of falling backwards. I didn't have time to contemplate that very much because we had to hop in the life raft which is now tied to the spacecraft and then hoisted by the helicopter onto the U.S.S. Yorktown. But later after we had been debriefed by the doctors and everybody, we had a chance to go out and look at the spacecraft and to meet the rescue crew. So here was these Marines, all lined up, you know, in their uniforms and I recognized the young corporal there that had first stuck his head in. And I asked him; I said 'Corporal, thanks a lot' and you know, we hadn't shaved, you know, we were dirty, I said, 'we really must have looked bad' and he said, without batting an eye, 'Sir, it wasn't how you looked, it was how you smelled.'

"'And I did notice a very strange odor when I got out of the spacecraft and it turned out to be fresh air.'"​



The crew of Apollo 8 poses on the deck of the USS Yorktown after being pulled from the Pacific.
From left to right: Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, Bill Anders.​
 
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#9
If I've broken any rules I'm sorry I've just signed up to get more participants.
My dissertation is on the influence of American presidents on the Moon Landing so I'm trying to get as many people as possible to answer some questions so I can answer some questions, most notably which President they most associate with the Moon Landing.
Once again if I've broken any rules I do apologise and you may delete my posts - I just was hoping to get some answers from people that actually knew a lot about the Apollo projects rather than the average person
 

Tulius

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Once again if I've broken any rules I do apologise and you may delete my posts - I just was hoping to get some answers from people that actually knew a lot about the Apollo projects rather than the average person
Only moderators/adm. can delete posts. I just stated it because sometimes new users are really prolific in spreading the same post in several threads.

I will take a look to your inquiry.

And Welcome to Historum!
 

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