In 1968, that is. That was the first time that man had ventured beyond LEO (Low-Earth Orbit) and traveled to another celestial body. To be sure, the crew of Apollo 8, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders never reached deep interplanetary space, but it was still a momentous, daring step to travel to the Moon, circle it 10 times, and return to the Earth. NASA was on a roll; only seven months later, Apollo 11 would land on the Moon.
I was traveling and did not see nor hear the Christmas Eve television broadcast the crew of Apollo 8 made as they emerged from behind the Moon, nor until later the color photograph Bill Anders took of the Earth rising above the Lunar horizon:
Columnist Mark Whittington at The Houston Examiner, describes the event:
December 24 marks the 46th anniversary of the famous broadcast from lunar orbit by the crew of Apollo 8 in which they read from the Book of Genesis. The mission sent three American astronauts around the moon at the end of 1968, that hell year of assassinations, riots, war, and political and civil strife.
Apollo 8 was designed to test certain navigation and other techniques for cis-lunar travel in advance of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. It was also meant to counter a rumored Soviet cis-lunar space mission that, as it turned out, did not take place. Apollo 8 also resulted in something that was so beautiful that it took the breath away from everyone who witnessed it on television. It was a Christmas gift to the world. . .
Jim Lovell describes the day much later in this short documentary, which begins with a few scenes from that tumultuous year in the United States:
The late ’60s were an odd combination of ‘right-track’ / ‘wrong track’ for the United States, as arguably they are today, maybe more ‘wrong’ than ‘right’ at the moment. We could use another Apollo 8 to point us back in the right direction. /LEJ
[Wow! My first post in six months, sorry to say. But I haven’t been entirely idle: see here for some others, more music-related to be sure. . . ]
UPDATE 21Oct18: Noticed dead link to Apollo 8 crew photo from The Houston Examiner, so replaced the photo with another from Space.com.