Apollo 8

The Earth seen from Apollo 8 in lunar orbit

The Earth seen from Apollo 8 in lunar orbit.

Apollo 8 launch

Apollo 8 launch.

Apollo 8 crew

Apollo 8 crew.

Apollo 8 image of Earth above the Moon's horizon

Earth seen above the Moon's horizon from Apollo 8.

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Apollo 8 was the second manned flight of the Apollo Project, the first manned flight to orbit the Moon, and the first manned launch of the Saturn V rocket. Originally intended as simply an Earth-orbit test mission, Apollo 8 evolved into an ambitious circumlunar flight at a time when rumors suggested a possible Soviet attempt at a manned orbit of the Moon (see Russian manned lunar programs).


The three astronauts of Apollo 8 became the first human beings to achieve Earth escape velocity and the first to see in person both the farside of the Moon and the whole of our planet from space. During 10 lunar orbits, the crew took star sightings to pinpoint landmarks, surveyed landing sites, took still and motion pictures, and made two TV transmissions in the course of one of which, on Christmas Eve, passages were read from the Book of Genesis. At 1:10 a.m. EST on Christmas Day 1968, while on the Moon's farside, the Service Module's main engine was fired to take the spacecraft out of lunar orbit. As the crew began its return to Earth, James Lovell remarked, "Please be informed ... there is a Santa Claus." Apollo 8 achieved another first when it splashed down in darkness.


A lunar module was not carried on Apollo 8 but a Lunar Test Article which is equivalent in weight to a lunar module was carried as ballast.


commander Frank Borman
lunar module pilot William Anders
command module pilot James Lovell, Jr.
launch Dec 21, 1968; 12:51:00 UT (7:51:00 a.m. EST)
Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A
mission duration 146 hr 59 min 49 sec
entered lunar orbit Dec 24, 1968
lunar orbits 10
splashdown Dec 27, 1968; 15:51:42 UT (10:51:42 a.m. EST)
retrieval site Pacific Ocean 8° 7.5' N, 165° 1.2' W


  • First manned mission launched by the Saturn V rocket
  • First use of Kennedy Space Center's Complex 39A "Moonport"
  • First humans to go around the Moon
  • First pictures of Earth from deep space taken by astronauts
  • New speed record for human spaceflight: 24,200 mph (38,938 km/h)
  • First live TV coverage of the lunar surface

    Strange fact

  • The Apollo 8 astronauts used silly putty to secure their tools in zero gravity