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This Day in History, Dec 21 – Apollo 8, First to Orbit the Moon

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It was 50 years ago today on December 21, 1968, that Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to break through Earth’s gravitational pull, and eventually reach and orbit the moon, safely returning on December 27. Astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders accomplished what so many astronomers and scientist had dreamed and strived for since the dawn of man.

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Taking off from the Kennedy Space Center on top of a Saturn V rocket, these pioneers incased in the Apollo 8 capsule, were launched into space. Orbiting the moon ten times, the astronauts were able to give NASA and the world a firsthand interpretation of what the moon looked like close up. They even had time to deliver a televised Christmas message. The astronauts were able to take a picture of an Earthrise, considered much more impressive than a lunar sunrise, seeing the Earth from the Moon’s perspective after having travelled around the dark side of the Moon. It still is one of the most famous pictures in history. While leaving the Moon’s orbit, astronaut Lovell announced “please be informed, there is a Santa Claus”.


About the Author

Ronald G. Mayer Jr. is a Native of Arizona and a graduate of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. He teaches history at Liberty Traditional School in Prescott Valley where he resides. He looks forward to a career as a Professor of History.

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