50 Years Ago on Christmas Eve 1968, Apollo 8 Photographed This Earth Rise
December 21, 2018 Albuquerque, New Mexico – Apollo 8, the second manned spaceflight mission in the United States Apollo space program, was launched fifty years ago on December 21, 1968, and became the first manned spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit, reach the Moon, orbit it, photograph the back side (below) and safely return to Earth. The three-astronaut crew were Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders. They were the first humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit; to see Earth as a whole planet; to orbit another celestial body, the Moon; to see the far side of the Moon; to witness and photograph an “Earthrise,” to escape the gravity of another celestial body, the Moon; and to re-enter Earth’s gravitational well and land. Apollo 8 was the third flight and the first crewed launch of the Saturn V rocket, and was the first human spaceflight from the Kennedy Space Center, located adjacent to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.