The Trip of Apollo 8, 50 years ago changed the world

Blue marble The home planet as seen from lunar orbit Christmas Eve 1968

Blue marble The home planet as seen from lunar orbit Christmas Eve 1968 William Anders NASA

And so it brought people together again and also demonstrated the ability of good leadership, teamwork and initiative on the part of the mission control team at NASA taking nearly certain catastrophe into a successful recovery.

One of the first men to orbit the Moon has told BBC Radio 5 Live that it's "stupid" to plan human missions to Mars.

In a race to beat the Russians to the moon, their mission was planned in only four months.

LEWIS: The Earth, rising above the barren lunar landscape.

Humans had never set eyes on the far side of the moon, or on our planet as a cosmic oasis, surrounded completely by the black void of space. They had one thing to rely one: the NASA scientists.

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On April 4, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray while King stood on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. "You saved 1968, '" said Borman. "NASA couldn't get to the moon today", he said.

"We were busy shooting pictures of lunar surface for lunar landing sites for upcoming lunar landings, and suddenly I looked out the window and there was this gorgeous orb coming up", Anders, who shot the picture, said in a NASA video. This historic mission launched on December 21, 1968 to demonstrate a lunar trajectory and was the first crewed launch of the Saturn V rocket. "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. Anders was a rookie astronaut, a member of the newest class of recruits, and in the run-up to the Apollo missions he knew it was unlikely he would ever get to command a lunar module; but if he learned every little thing there was to know about the machine - making himself as much of an expert as the people who designed it - he could surely snag himself a number-two slot.

The year was 1968.

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The cruise to the Moon was uneventful from a technical perspective, although the crew remained vigilant; it was the first time anyone had attempted this after all.

But the view of Earth the trio were about to get would be incredible. In his mind, a single lap around the moon would suffice.

"My main concern in this whole flight was to get there ahead of the Russians and get home". Author Robert Kurson wrote about the mission in a new book, Rocket Men.

After all, they weren't just going to the moon; they were going to orbit it ten times. Their only instruction was: "Say something appropriate".

"We all tried for quite a while to figure out something, and it all came up trite or foolish", Borman recalled, until the wife of a friend suggested they take turns reading verses from the Bible.

Correspondent Lee Cowan asked, "Did you guys say anything to each other?"

'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

On Dec. 27, 1968, Sauvante and his fellow sailors woke up before dawn to watch the capsule's return to Earth.

But with a spacecraft now on Mars and the world preparing to mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing next summer, the interest in stellar exploration is at its highest for years. "The Voyager mission, outside the solar system, has been absolutely unbelievable - it's one of the most successful expeditions Nasa has ever done". Lovell confirmed the successful firing of the engines by telling mission control, "Please be informed there is a Santa Claus".

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