Apollo 8: Where did 50 years go?
My father died three Decembers ago. I always remember him on certain anniversaries, such as Apollo 8.
On Christmas Eve 1968, our family went to the midnight Mass. By the way, very few parishes actually celebrate Mass at midnight. Our church today celebrates Mass at 9 P.M.!
Nevertheless, it was a remarkable ride from church. It took me a while to realize I was hearing three men reading from the Good Book from a spaceship circling the Moon. It was one of those moments I will never forget.
Years ago, families actually sat around to watch the NASA missions. In our household, it was a lot of fun to gather around the TV and enjoy an Apollo rocket going into space. My favorite part was hearing my father say he would have never believed it when he was growing up. My mother would usually compliment the U.S., with the Cuban version of "what a country."
The Apollo 8 mission accomplished some big objectives:
The six-day mission was a roaring success, orbiting the moon 10 times and testing out the "trans-lunar injection" system and other electronic networks that would allow future missions to land on the moon over the next three years. Anders' iconic photo (known as the "Earthrise" image) of a partially shaded bright blue Earth graced a U.S. stamp and is credited in part with being a catalyst for the environmental movement. The astronauts were feted with a ticker-tape parade in New York City.
The mission gradually lost a measure of prominence after Apollo 11 carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the lunar surface the following year. Other missions also grabbed the public's attention, including the Apollo 13 mission Lovell commanded in 1970 that failed and became the subject of a Hollywood movie.
The Apollo 8 crew was Frank Borman, the aforementioned James Lovell, and William Anders.
They became the first humans to see the far side of the Moon. I recall my father talking about all of those science fiction comic books about the unknown on the dark side of the Moon.
Who wasn't stunned to see that picture of the Earth floating in space on the cover of the weekly magazines? It certainly put living on our good Earth in a somewhat different perspective.
Last but not least, the crew read from Genesis to everyone back home.
It's a shame that my sons never watched those space launchings in school. Who knows when we will send men to another world again? I was fortunate to see it!
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