Apollo 8 - 50 Years and Still Wonderful

This post is one of the winners from ChicagoNow's 20 Best Posts of December 2018

Apollo 8 - 50 Years and Still Wonderful

Earth Rise

Wonderful.  What determines that something is Wonderful?  Dictionary.com gives some fitting synonyms:  Awe-Inspiring; Brilliant; Divine; Incredible; Magnificent; Miraculous.

Wonderful is how our astronauts -- Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders -- felt when they first viewed Earth from hundreds of thousands of miles away.   Fifty years ago, in December of 1968, the adventurers didn't want to simply orbit Earth, but go all and way and reach for the moon.

They knew their mission would be a magnificent one, leading to incredible discoveries.

Accordingly, the team searched for the perfect message to convey to people at home and all around the world.  They wanted to touch the hearts of everyone.

The astronauts searched for inspiring words to describe their journey once they reached their goal.  Enlisting a family friend to comprise a fitting dispatch back to tell those at home, they searched for the right words to convey the wonder and magnificence of space travel.

It was the friend's wife who suggested reading from the Book of Genesis.  "Why don't you write about the beginning of Earth," she said simply.

Everyone agreed.  Why hadn't they thought of that before?

The launch occurred on the 21st day of December, 1968.  While in the capsule, the astronauts were in awe of their surroundings.  But as they looked back at Earth, they realized ours was the only planet with COLOR.  It was a surreal and breathtaking BLUE.  Its beauty was overwhelming.

It was then they knew they had the appropriate words to describe their awe.  On Christmas Eve 1968 they shared a message of hope for all of us:

William A. Anders:

We are now approaching lunar sunrise. And, for all the people back on earth, the crew of Apollo 8 have a message that we would like to send to you.

"In 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 A. Lovell, Jr.:

"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."

Apollo 8 crew

As James Lovell explained years after their mission:

“All the world’s problems, everything. It kind of shows you how relative life is and how insignificant we all are here on Earth. Because we are all on a rather small spaceship here.”

When I was a very young girl, I thought astronauts and space travel was an everyday occurrence.  I was too young to realize the impact of that spectacular breakthrough of science, technology and the tenacity of human spirit.

All I knew back then about the name "Borman" was that it was an expressway -- Interstate 94.  "Oh, the traffic was terrible on the Borman today," my mom would tell my grandmother, who we visited just over the state line, from to Chicago to Indiana.  My grandmother would cluck her tongue and shake her head, giving empathy to my frustrated mother.

Good thing I grew up and realized who the real Mr. Borman is.  He is one of a crew that sent back pictures of our BEAUTIFUL EARTH.  And it helped those of us back here appreciate our Wonderful, Breathtaking, Awe-inspiring, Magnificent and Miraculous planet.  I am fortunate to have lived in a time when this first sighting of Earth occurred.

It's important to impress upon others that a vital component of that mission is RIGHT HERE in CHICAGO.  You can visit the Apollo 8 shuttle in the Museum of Science and Industry.  There you will learn more about the brave astronauts, the crew that supported them back home, and the first images that any one of us ever saw of Beautiful Earth.

It's a WONDERFUL thing to behold.


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