Apollo 8, which launched on December 21, 1968, was the first mission to take humans to the Moon and back. While the crew did not land on the Moon's surface, the flight was an important prelude to a lunar landing, testing the flight trajectory and operations getting there and back.
Other firsts accomplished during the Apollo 8 mission included the first crewed mission launched on the Saturn V, the first crew to ascend from Launch Complex 39, NASA's new Moonport, the first humans to travel into deep space, the first pictures taken by humans of Earth from deep space, and the first live TV coverage of the lunar surface. When splashdown occurred on December 27th in the Pacific Ocean, a nearly flawless mission was complete.
Meet the Astronauts
- Frank Borman, Commander: Borman, who served as commander for Apollo 8, had previously served as commander for the Gemini VII mission in 1965.
- James A. Lovell, Jr., Command Module Pilot: Serving as the command module pilot for Apollo 8, Lovell had also flown with Borman on the Gemini VII mission, and commanded the Gemini XII mission. He would also go on to serve as commander for the Apollo 13 mission.
- William Anders, Lunar Module Pilot: Apollo 8 was Anders only flight with NASA, where he served as the Lunar Module Pilot. Apollo 8 did not carry a lunar module, but instead a Lunar Test Article, which was equivalent in weight to a lunar module. Anders took the famous Earthrise photograph shown at the top of the page.
Apollo 8 was the first human mission to the Moon, and its crew were the first people to see the far side with their own eyes. The mission’s dramatic highlights included a live Christmas Eve broadcast during which the astronauts read verses from the Book of Genesis in lunar orbit, and captured the iconic Earthrise photo. Capt. James A Lovell, Apollo 8 astronaut, shared his memories of that historic mission with the Museum.
"To this day the stunning vision of man's first journey to the Moon remains the most unforgettable sight of my life."
In 1968 David La Conte was given a momentous task – to photograph humanity's first voyage into the space beyond the environs of the Earth, out toward the Moon.
Broadcast Live on Christmas Eve
In lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, the Apollo 8 crew delivered to a world audience a moving TV broadcast in which they read from the Book of Genesis. During the mission, the three astronauts witnessed something no other human had ever seen—Earth rising over the lunar surface.
An Evening with the Apollo 8 Astronauts
Listen as all three Apollo 8 astronauts share stories of their careers and their momentous mission, including reflecting on their unforgettable Christmas Eve.
The Spirit of Apollo: Apollo 8 50th Anniversary Celebration
On December 11th, 2018, nearly 50 years after Apollo 8's historic Christmas Eve broadcast, the National Air and Space Museum commemorated the mission with an evening at Washington National Cathedral.
Apollo 8 in the Collection
Join Museum curator Jennifer Levasseur in conversation with author Jeffrey Kluger about his new book Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon. Apollo 8 was the groundbreaking mission that produced the iconic earthrise photo; the mission that made all of the other Moon missions possible, including the Apollo 11 Moon landing; and the mission that climaxed most poignantly on Christmas Eve, when the astronauts beamed images of the lunar horizon crawling below and the Earth hanging in the distance to 3.5 billion people, forever changing the way we view our planet.