The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

40 Years Since Apollo 8

40 years ago, Apollo 8 embarked on its famous mission and returned what has to be on anyone’s short list of the greatest photos of all time.
Known as Earthrise, William Anders captured this photo of Earth slowly rising above the Moon’s surface. The astronauts later said they went to study the Moon but discovered Earth.

Apollo 8 was originally supposed to be a test of the lunar module and command module in Earth orbit. The lunar module was behind schedule (surprise!) and there were rumors that the Soviets were planning a Moon mission, so NASA decided to go for a lunar orbit mission in August leaving a much shorter training period than usual. It was also the first manned launch on a Saturn V.

I believe it was the series “When We Left Earth” where they interviewed Lovell’s wife. She someone (I forget who) from NASA what he thought the odds were of her husband coming back alive and he told her 50%. She was relieved…”I thought it would be much lower” she said. It was not seen as a sure thing to say the least.

The mission went well. They got the famous Earthrise photo. And, in a live Christmas Eve broadcast, the crew gave a truly moving reading of the first 10 verses of Genesis. I have heard it dozens of times but still sometimes tear up hearing the emotion in those voices coming over that crackly radio broadcast. Thanks to the magic of Youtube, we can all watch it again on today’s 40th anniversary of that historic broadcast.


December 24, 2008 - Posted by | exploration


  1. What amazed me was that the astronauts didn’t end with the usual “God bless America” that we hear all the damn time from the politicians. They said “God bless all of you.”

    Only one earth.
    Peace to all.

    Comment by Carolyn | December 25, 2008 | Reply

  2. I’ve never seen this before .. so amazing !!

    Comment by NiteSkyGirl Blog | January 2, 2009 | Reply

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