Fifty years ago next week, a manned spacecraft for the first time entered orbit around another celestial body–the moon.
The year 1968 had been a harrowing one for the country and the world. It began with the devastating Tet Offensive in Vietnam and was followed by the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The “Prague Spring” was crushed by Soviet tanks in August with the tumultuous Democratic National Convention a week later.
Weary and worn, we were ready for some good news. That night, Christmas Eve, the crew of Apollo 8 sent a message to everyone on earth in what has been called the most watched television broadcast in history. Here is what they said:
[William 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.
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.
[James 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.
[Frank Borman:]And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto 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.
Photo credit: NASA, Apollo 8, Earthrise