December 21, 1968 – Apollo 8 launches into orbit
Apollo 8 – launched December 21, 1968, was NASA’s second successful manned mission. Her crew included Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders. Apollo 8 was the first manned orbit of the moon, laying the foundation for the first lunar landing of Apollo 11 just seven months later. It was also the first manned launch using the Saturn V rocket.
“After launching on December 21, 1968, the crew took three days to travel to the Moon. They orbited it ten times, lasting 20 hours in total. While in lunar orbit the crew made a Christmas Eve television broadcast in which they read from the book of Genesis. In its 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.”
Image credits: NASA