Christmas Greetings from the Moon

 

The first manned mission to the moon, Apollo 8, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve 1968. On that evening 47 years ago, the astronauts — Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders — held a live broadcast from above the moon’s surface, in which they showed images of the Earth and moon as seen from their tiny spacecraft. They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis and wished a Merry Christmas to all the people on “the good Earth.”

Merry Christmas, Ricochetti.

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There are 17 comments.

  1. BrentB67 Inactive

    How awesome that they were given the opportunity to choose whatever they would say and they chose the Bible.

    • #1
    • December 24, 2015, at 6:08 PM PDT
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  2. aardo vozz Member

    Thanks for the post. That certainly brings back some good memories.

    • #2
    • December 24, 2015, at 6:09 PM PDT
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  3. Scott Wilmot Member

    Very cool. Thanks Jon, Merry Christmas.

    • #3
    • December 24, 2015, at 6:19 PM PDT
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  4. Kay of MT Member

    I remember listening to that! Thank you for the memory. May all of you have a good Christmas.

    • #4
    • December 24, 2015, at 6:33 PM PDT
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  5. MarciN Member

    Wow. Thank you.

    • #5
    • December 24, 2015, at 7:06 PM PDT
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  6. profdlp Inactive

    I was nine years old and I remember my mom and dad commenting on what a fitting thing that was to do.

    • #6
    • December 24, 2015, at 9:46 PM PDT
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  7. The Reticulator Member

    Thanks for bringing back the memory. I was home from college for the holidays, and when that was on we all just shut up and watched and listened. That was not the usual behavior for us.

    • #7
    • December 24, 2015, at 11:19 PM PDT
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  8. John Walker Contributor

    About 2½ hours after the television transmission including the reading from Genesis, Apollo 8 was scheduled to make its burn to leave lunar orbit and return to Earth. For reasons of orbital mechanics, this maneuver had to be performed on the far side of the Moon, out of communication with Earth. This had to work: if the service module engine failed to fire, the crew would be marooned in lunar orbit with no hope of rescue. There was only one engine (although it incorporated redundant systems for reliability).

    When Apollo 8 disappeared behind the Moon for was was hoped to be the last time, mission control knew that if the burn was successful the signal would be re-acquired on the other limb of the Moon at a precise time. If the burn failed, it would not appear until sometime afterward, indicating that the spacecraft was still in orbit around the Moon. As the seconds ticked down to the expected acquisition of signal for a successful burn, tension was high. Here is a transcript from the Apollo 8 Flight Journal. Times are in Mission Elapsed Time (time since launch). These events occurred at 06:25 UTC on 1968-12-25. Mattingly is Capsule Communicator Ken Mattingly in Houston; Lovell is Apollo 8 Command Module Pilot James Lovell.

    Public Affairs Officer – “This is Apollo Control Houston at 89 hours, 26 minutes. Flight Director Milton Windler has just advised his flight control team here in Mission Control Center that we have less than 3 minutes now until reacquisition of the spacecraft and he requested that they monitor their console, get prepared to reacquire and to get a status from the crew. (Pause.)”

    Public Affairs Officer – “This is Apollo Control Houston. We now show less than 30 seconds until reacquistion. We will stand by for the first words from the Apollo 8 crew as they come over the lunar horizon, and into acquisition.”

    Public Affairs Officer – “We have AOS signal. There is a little bit of a cheer going up among the flight controllers here. We should be hearing from the crew shortly.”

    Public Affairs Officer – “Our station at Honeysuckle reports that we do have a radio signal from the spacecraft. Having a bit of trouble locking up at this point, to the point where we can get voice communications from the crew.”

    089:31:12 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston. [No answer.]

    089:31:30 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston. [No answer.]

    089:31:58 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston. [No answer.]

    089:32:50 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston. [No answer.]

    089:33:38 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston.

    089:34:16 Lovell: Houston, Apollo 8, over.

    089:34:19 Mattingly: Hello, Apollo 8. Loud and clear.

    089:34:25 Lovell: Roger. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus.

    089:34:31 Mattingly: That’s affirmative. You’re the best ones to know.

    Hear it for yourself:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK4-qbZTiik

    • #8
    • December 25, 2015, at 6:08 AM PDT
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  9. Chris Campion Coolidge

    Thanks John. Looking at the timestamps while they wait to re-acquire is quite telling.

    • #9
    • December 25, 2015, at 6:26 AM PDT
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  10. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    There was always that hold-your-breath quality to the dark side of the moon. I was able to meet Jim Lovell and shake his hand at his son’s restaurant in Lake Forest, IL. I wept at the honor. These men were brilliant and daring.

    • #10
    • December 25, 2015, at 9:36 AM PDT
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  11. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Thatcher

    Jon,

    I recall hearing that Genesis passage from space as a boy. Our family was neck deep into the entire Space endeavor (My father worked for Grumman Aerospace at the time on the OAO, what was essentially the precursor to the Hubble). We lived, breathed, and ate that stuff up. Of Dad’s children, four of the five got engineering degrees, and three work for NASA. It is a bit tough to see the agency pilloried here, but in some aspects they deserve it.

    I hope the younger folks are as excited by, and inspired by, the private entrepreneur’s progress. I know a good chunk of their monies are still via the government, but they are allowed to make better funding and purchasing decisions without having to consider to who’s district the work will be flowing.

    The hard part still has to be breached, which is all of the systems required for the cold, nasty, and brutish environment that is space. A hop to 100 miles up and back down is an achievement, however getting to orbital velocity and slowing down (here is a taste of the thoughts to do it with current materials) from 18.5 mile/sec (66,600 MPH) with a mostly reusable vehicle is not trivial. I wish the private boys will hurry up so I can see the ambitions of my youth completed….regular service to a staging point in orbit for both commercial and exploratory mission to the rest of solar system. There is a lot of resources between here and Jupiter…..

    images

    • #11
    • December 25, 2015, at 2:11 PM PDT
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  12. civil westman Inactive

    I listened to that live radio broadcast in a chalet in the small village of Mayens de Riddes in Valais, Switzerland. It was my first winter in CH, first Christmas there and first ski trip, ever. We had arrived before sunset but the chalet had not yet been fully warmed by the terrific stove we had to start up, which efficiently burned large bricks of charcoal. Although there was no thermometer, approximate temperature could be derived from the speed with which the daddy longlegs spiders covering the bathroom walls, moved.

    In any case, it is with profound nostalgia that I remember my still-innocent self suffused with awe and wonderment hearing those magical words in that magical place. Would I were still capable of such. While not jaded, I fear I have become a bit emotionally calloused; the world, methinks, is more abrasive than it was in those days.

    • #12
    • December 25, 2015, at 3:53 PM PDT
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  13. Richard Easton Member

    I was thirteen and watched it with my family and then went to the Christmas eve service at our church. My Dad worked on the unmanned space program (1950s Viking, Vanguard, Naval Space Surveillance and Timation which led to GPS) so my family followed Apollo closely. Bob Zimmerman wrote an excellent book on Apollo 8. You can hear my call to The Space Show talking with him about it about 42 minutes into http://thespaceshow.com/detail.asp?q=2605

    • #13
    • December 25, 2015, at 4:17 PM PDT
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  14. Chris Campion Coolidge

    Actually, I find it quaint and amusing that Jon Gabriel thinks we landed on the moon.

    Even OJ knows that stuff was faked.

    • #14
    • December 25, 2015, at 7:00 PM PDT
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  15. Tim H. Member

    Chris campion—I was watching “Diamonds Are Forever” on TV the other day and noticed for the first time that it puts out a reference to the “moon landings were faked” idea, with Bond being chased across the “moon” set while the astronauts are filming.

    • #15
    • December 26, 2015, at 6:59 AM PDT
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  16. Chris Campion Coolidge

    Tim H.:Chris campion—I was watching “Diamonds Are Forever” on TV the other day and noticed for the first time that it puts out a reference to the “moon landings were faked” idea, with Bond being chased across the “moon” set while the astronauts are filming.

    Oh, it’s not an idea. Have you been to Air and Space in DC? Those rocks are totally fake.

    • #16
    • December 27, 2015, at 4:45 PM PDT
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  17. Tim H. Member

    Oh, boy! Well, that’s an embarassment.

    • #17
    • December 28, 2015, at 1:19 PM PDT
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