|Former Las Cruces NM resident, Frank Borman|
Tuesday marked the 45th anniversary of "Earthrise" — a dramatic color photo of the Earth rising over the lunar surface, with the blackness of outer space as a backdrop — which was taken by astronaut Bill Anders and beamed back to Earth as he and the other two astronauts on the Apollo 8 lunar orbit mission took turns speaking to an enthralled, spellbound nation.
One of those astronauts, and the mission's commander, lives in the Billings area and said on Tuesday that it's still tough to describe the feeling of what he and the two others — Anders and Jim Lovell — on the mission saw.
"We were coming around on the revolution on Christmas Eve and we looked up over the lunar surface and there was the Earth," said Frank Borman. "The Earth was so beautiful with all of the different colors. I think all three of us were totally enraptured."
While the moment wasn't expected, the mission's success was. Borman said that, while the three astronauts blasted off on Dec. 21 before circling the moon 10 times three days later and heading home, the week-long mission was the culmination of years of hard work, planning and preparation.
Fueled by competition with the Soviet Union and a challenge from President John F. Kennedy to land on the moon by the end of the decade, America threw huge amounts of resources into its space program.
Being the first to orbit the moon with Apollo 8 was the product of much of that work. "Four hundred thousand Americans worked on that project," Borman said. "The three astronauts got most of that credit but a lot of people worked on it and deserve most of it. Everything worked perfect. They made our jobs easy."
It was also the first time live TV images of the lunar surface were shown to the public. After sharing the images, the crew took turns reading aloud from the Book of Genesis before Borman closed with one final message. "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth," he said. Read entire story