Apollo 8 was the first human spaceflight mission to escape from the gravitational field of planet Earth; the first to be captured by and escape from the gravitational field of another celestial body; and the first crewed voyage to return to planet Earth from another celestial body - Earth's Moon. The three-man crew of Mission Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first humans to see the far side of the Moon with their own eyes, as well as the first humans to see planet Earth from beyond low Earth orbit. The mission was accomplished with the first manned launch of a Saturn V rocket. Apollo 8 was the second manned mission of the Apollo Program.
Originally planned as a low Earth orbit Lunar Module/Command Module test, the mission profile was changed to the more ambitious lunar orbital flight in August 1968 when the Lunar Module scheduled for the flight became delayed. The new mission's profile, procedures and personnel requirements left an uncharacteristically short time frame for training and preparation, thus placing more demands than usual on the time, talent, and discipline of the crew.
After launching on December 21, 1968, the crew took three days to travel to the Moon. They orbited ten times over the course of 20 hours, during which the crew made a Christmas Eve television broadcast in which they read the first 10 verses from the Book of Genesis. At the time, the broadcast was the most watched TV program ever. Apollo 8's successful mission paved the way for Apollo 11 to fulfill U.S. President John F. Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.
Launch date: December 21, 1968 12:51:00 UTC
Landing: December 27, 1968 15:51:42 UTC
Measured 4 inches (10.16 cm) across.