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

Apollo 8 crew. From left: Commander Frank Borman, Lunar Module Pilot William Anders, and Command Module Pilot James Lovell.
  • 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.
An Apollo 8 Astronaut Remembers Looking Down at Earth

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.  

Read Lovell's reflections

"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.

Read Le Conte's story

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.

In late December 1968, the Apollo 8 crew of Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders became the first humans to leave Earth and journey to another world. They spent 20 hours orbiting the Moon, and then made the flight back home.

In lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, the 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. Captured on camera, this image has become one of the most well-known of the last forty years.

Apollo 8's success paved the way for Apollo 11, the first human landing on the Moon.

All three astronauts shared stories about their careers and the Apollo 8 mission in this program, recorded on November 13, 2008, at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

This event is made possible by the generous support of The Boeing Company.

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.

Apollo 8 astronauts share stories

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.

Watch 'The Spirit of Apollo'

Apollo 8 in the Collection 

Command Module, Apollo 8 Object Apollo 8 Returned Object Pressure suit, A7-L, Borman, Apollo 8, Flown Object Maps, Lunar Landmark, Apollo 8 Object What's New in Aerospace What Makes Apollo 8 So Special?

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. 

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