Human mission to Mars ‘stupid’: Astronaut

Yet the most famous moment of Apollo 8's orbits - eight months before Armstrong and Aldrin finally set foot on the Moon - had come nine hours earlier, when the astronauts were distracted during a scheduled photography session by a dramatic sight emerging from the darkness.

On Christmas Eve 50 years ago, Frank Borman, Bill Anders and Jim Lovell were orbiting the moon on a mission to find the optimal spots for a potential moon landing, but the mission took a turn when the crew noticed Earth peeking out over the lunar horizon.

"NASA usually went step-by-step".

There was the Old Testament reading by commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders.

NASA's Apollo program fulfilled President John F. Kennedy's goal, announced in 1962, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth by the end of the decade.

KELLY: That accident was Apollo 13, two years after Apollo 8, 1970, a near disaster of a mission after an oxygen tank exploded en route to the moon. NASA was anxious the Soviet Union was about to send a cosmonaut into lunar orbit.

Fred Spier, a senior lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, notes in his article "The Elusive Apollo 8 Earthrise Photo" that Borman and Lovell each played a crucial part in prompting Anders, who had the only colour camera, to take the shot. "Gus" Grissom, an IN native and Purdue University graduate; Edward H. White II; and Roger B. Chaffee, another Purdue graduate, perish IN a cabin fire during a launch test, postponing future Apollo flights 20 months until Apollo 7 returned Americans to space IN October 1968. "To me it was unusual that we had worked and had come all the way to the moon to study the moon, and what we really discovered was the Earth".

It wasn't a mission NASA had originally planned for. He was the guy who told the Apollo 8 crew on December 21, 1968, that they were cleared to leave Earth's orbit and head for the moon, a milestone known as trans-lunar injection or TLI.

"The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth", Lovell told the viewers. Rather than go all that way just to swing around and come back, NASA chose to test the lunar orbital portion of the Apollo missions by putting Apollo 8 into orbit for 10 revolutions before coming home. It showed a brightly-lit stretch of the moon's surface, including some craters. Still, Anders could not help but feel that his contribution to the landmark mission in which human beings would at last reach the moon would be minimal.

"Oh my god look at that picture over there. Wow, is that pretty!". It's also a view that Anders accepts doesn't sit too well with some in the space community. "I mean, this was the first time mankind had ever left the Earth's pull".

Susan Byrum Rountree, photographed in 1968, holds her first camera, a gift that came the day after the Apollo 8 crew broadcast from space. The idea of a Spaceship Earth, with its interdependent ecologies and finite resources, became an icon of a growing environmental movement concerned with the ecological impacts of industrialization and population growth.

The crew splashed down in the Pacific on December 27.

After checking out their spacecraft's systems, the crew prepared for the crucial Trans-Lunar-Injection (TLI) which required a re-ignition of the Saturn V's third stage, still attached to the Apollo spacecraft. "This was the first digital computer in nearly anything".

Fifty years later, here we are again. "Musk and Bezos, they're talking about putting colonies on Mars, that's nonsense", he said.

  • Carolyn Briggs