Planetary Radio Host and Producer, The Planetary Society
This is the 50th anniversary of the most audacious space mission in history. Apollo 8 blazed a path for the first moon landing seven months later, and gave a troubled nation reason for hope and pride. Author Robert Kurson has written Rocket Men as a tribute to—and chronicle of—the mission and the people who made it happen. The new edition of The Planetary Report is now available to all, according to Senior editor Emily Lakdawalla. Planetary Society Chief Scientist Bruce Betts also celebrates Apollo 8 in this week’s What’s Up.
NASA / Seán Doran
When Apollo 8 astronauts Bill Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell rounded the farside of the Moon, they became the first humans to witness an Earthrise above an alien surface. The iconic image was first published on 30 December 1968.
As seen from Earth, what extrasolar star (not the Sun) has the largest apparent size in the sky, in terms of angular diameter?
The answer will be revealed next week.
Question from the December 5th space trivia contest question:
What spacecraft was intended to visit comet 46P/Wirtanen?
The Rosetta spacecraft was originally intended to visit comet 46P/Wirtanen.
NOTE: This automated transcript is currently being edited by a human. Check back soon for updates.
The 50th anniversary of earthrise this week on planetary radio.
Welcome. I'm at Kaplan of the planetary Society with more of the Human Adventure across our solar system and beyond our guest believes Apollo eights heroin and triumphant 1968 Journey to the Moon. Was the greatest space journey ever made by humans? He's not alone. Robert Kirsten will share stories from his terrific book Rocket Man and he'll tell us about the three explorers who made the trip Bruce vets Braves a bad cold to share the night sky with us along with a new space trivia contest and much more and in moments.
We'll get a report from Emily locked Walla about the brand new edition of the planetary report that is available to everyone online. Here's something I'm very grateful for in rather proud of our associate producer Mary. Liz Bender has written a blog post that [00:01:00] collects 16 of the very best episodes of planetary radio one for each year.
We've been doing the show. You'll find it at planetary dot-org. Only we continue in this new era of the planetary report for which you serve as editor-in-chief where of course the members of the society are getting the wonderful paper copy of the magazine, but you've just posted everything to plan at your a.org.
Tell us about this this issue. This issue is titled where life began and the on the cover of the issue is. The historic Apollo 8 earthrise portrait because it's now the 50th anniversary of the capturing and publication of that image that really changed our perspective on Earth as a fragile blue world floating in the Blackness of space for the cover.
I had a tree processed by an amateur who did a really nice job with it Sean door. Using that image for the cover really suggested the contents of the Interior where I decided to invite Michael [00:02:00] Wong to write an article about how life may have started on Earth and what that teaches us about how and where we might find it on other worlds.
And then there was an there's an article by Vicki Hamilton about osiris-rex turning all of its space science instruments on to Earth as it flew past as many spacecraft do when they do an earth flyby. You will learn about why spacecraft do that doing Earth flybys and what they may have learned.
Vicky Hamilton will be my guest here on the show on our January 2nd episode with Michael Wong following a little bit into the new year. So we'll be talking with them about what they've written for you. I have read these they are terrific. And these are just the main two features in this magazine.
Of course, there's a bunch of other stuff that shows up on a regular basis. That's right. Casey dryer wrote a really nice article about the acquisition of the earth rise image. I've got my where we are spacecraft locator and the very back pages. We have updates on lightsail to and information [00:03:00] from Bill on how we're going to be celebrating the Apollo anniversaries in the upcoming years and that where we are page with those terrific Graphics.
That is. I've seen things to their approach it but nothing that really captures our presence in the solar system. It's something to be proud of it absolutely is and the main thing I think that's unique about it is that it's International. It's not just NASA missions in space. Not just Isa it's everybody's missions all over the solar system and there are dozens and one of the missions, of course that you show off out in the outer reaches of the solar system.
You've also just written about an update on knew her. Presence and there has been news even in the minutes and hours since you publish this on December 17th. Yeah. So this is a look ahead at New Horizons flyby of the tiny object 2014 mu 69 soon. I answer all your questions about what's happening during the flyby and more importantly [00:04:00] I think to those of us on earth when we'll hear that if it was successful and when we'll get the first images to see the news this morning was that they have selected their Prime.
Bye-bye trajectory going only 3,500 kilometers past this incredibly distant World on January 1st. Like I said it December 17 blog post at planetary dot org. Thank you also for mentioning that I am going to be one of the thrilled observers at. The Applied Physics lab in Maryland as as all of this takes place.
It's going to be great fun to participate in that. Yeah. Well so Emily thanks as always and congratulations on this brand new issue of the planetary report that people can also find at planetary dot-org will talk to you again soon looking forward to it man. That's only like two Wallace senior editor for the planetary Society our planetary evangelist.
She leads our creation of the planetary. Report
celebration of Apollo H Fantastic Voyage to the moon and back begins the countdown to this coming July as 50th anniversary of the first moon landing that Landing probably would not have happened if it hadn't been for an audacious decision made by NASA in the summer of 1968. A troubled year for the United States that could easily have ended with the failure of the first attempt to send humans to another Celestial body.
Fifty years later I can think of no better way to celebrate the Glorious success of that mission than reading Robert Carson's book rocket men in the process of writing it Robert spent hours with Frank Borman James Lovell and Bill Anders along with many of the NASA engineers and leaders who sent these Pioneers toward their Destinies Kirsten recently joined me for a conversation about Apollo 8.
And its Legacy [00:06:00] Robert Carson, thank you very much for joining us here on planetary radio to talk about a book that I enjoyed tremendously. This may be a silly question for an author who wants to sell books, but it's pretty clear that you believe. This is a very special story why I mean Apollo 11 was less than seven months later.
Yes. Well the foundational reason I think it's a special story and why I really think it's the greatest and most important space mission of them all. Paula wait represented the first time human beings ever left home. And the first time we ever arrived at a new world our most ancient companion the moon.
So the scope of the mission itself is truly homeric. It is A Space Odyssey, but I'm not the only one who thinks this way about Apollo 8, if you talk to all kinds of Apollo era astronauts, they all speak in reverential tones. Almost about Apollo 8, and they'll all tell you the same thing. This was about the first time humans.
Left home and the risk in the [00:07:00] danger involved in doing it in the suddenness of the planet all combines to form a very special and singular Story That's before we even consider when the flight went and what year and at what time so every element that makes a great story seems to be encompassed in the story of Apollo 8.
Yeah. I know I think that is certainly borne out by by my reading of the book which I read quite a while ago because the book came out last spring and then was reviewing it over the last couple. Day is knowing that we would be talking and was reminded about what a great story. This is and how well you tell it this book has 4.9 out of 5 stars from reviewers on Amazon and and I couldn't agree with more with those hundreds of other reviewers.
Let's go to chapter one. There are so many heroes in this book, but you begin that chapter with someone that most people will never have heard of why did you start with this engineer named George low sitting on a beach? Well, George Lowe was a brilliant [00:08:00] mind and a very humble and beautiful person.
He was a quiet man who subjects and verbs always agreed even when he gave dictation who's the kind of person to bring this briefcase to the beach when he went Sun Tanning short, who was George Lowe? So idea he was in charge of the Apollo spacecraft that NASA is a very important position there, but it was George Lowe's idea.
It was really more than more of an epiphany even than just the basic idea that changed the original plan for Apollo 8, which was a test flight in low earth. To the first lunar Mission ever flown by human beings, it took such audacity and insight and creativity. It was inspired how he came up with this when he came up with it and was really a breathtaking kind of leap of imagination that he had if it weren't for George low Apollo 8 would not have flown when it did so you have to start the story with him and really the story started on a beach in the Caribbean of all.
Which is where he really [00:09:00] finalized this great idea. Did he have trouble selling this idea? Well, you would think that he would have because the risks and I'm sure we'll talk about them were so great there. They know they spun your head around any one of them would have spun your head around when he got back to Houston and pitched the idea to Chris Kraft.
Who was The Mastermind of Mission Control one of the most important people in the history of. The American Space Program craft nearly fell out of his chair. It was it was such an audacious leap in thinking and leaping mission that craft almost couldn't imagine how it could be done. But when he began to understand what Louis suggesting and he more so understood the benefits that could be obtained by NASA for doing it.
It took them very short time a matter of minutes really to come around to Lowe's way of thinking. That meant though that they still have to convince Jim Webb the head of NASA. But as far as Chris Kraft was concerned injured low George Lowe was concerned if NASA could somehow [00:10:00] someway pull this off Miracles could be done at Nasa at a time when they really needed them how much of this was driven by the fear that the US would lose the race to the.
That was a huge part of it. We had been engaged in an existential level space race with the Soviets really since Sputnik flew. The first artificial satellite was launched by the Soviets in 1957 and I say existential because both sides believed very seriously that the superpower that could win the space race and can control space had a huge advantage in war.
And in Military and the side that could put humans in space could put soldiers in Space the side that could build a moon base could build a military base on the moon. So this was in the minds of many a matter of survival and a large measure of who was going to win. The space race was going to be the side that delivered the first humans to the moon and so it was very important to beat the Soviets who is also important.
To keep John F. [00:11:00] Kennedy's promise that he made to the country in 1961 alive the promise being to land a man on the moon and bring him home safely by the end of the decade. That was very important also, but by mid-1968 that promise look to be in grave Jeopardy and because that promise became in grave Jeopardy, so did the chance to beat the Soviets to the moon.
So this is all what's going on at NASA and mid-1968 the summer of 1968 when George low starts to think. How to overcome all these problems. You know, we have a weekly space trivia contest on the show and just recently that contest a part of the answer had to do with this Soviet mission called zond 5, which you write about in the book and it actually gave more reason to this this us team to think.
Wow. The Soviets are coming really close. They were coming very close. In fact this on missions in 1968 made it. [00:12:00] There are too many world experts that the Soviets had already won basically designed to delivered spacecraft around the Moon capable of carrying cosmonauts. And in fact, the world's leading astronomer at the time sir, Bernard Lovell no relation to Jim Lovell saw zoned and just begged NASA don't go on Apollo 8 the Soviets have essentially already won.
All you're doing now is risking the lives of three brave men that was viewed as a lost cause and he wasn't the only one begging NASA there were newspaper editorial saying a. The weight was crazy. Even Buzz aldrin's father himself a legendary Aviator implored NASA not to do this with Apollo 8 because it was thought that it wasn't worth all the risk just to beat the Soviets to the moon but George Lowe and Chris Kraft and others understood the beauty of the plan and the potential it had if somehow they could make it work so they were committed but even Chris-Craft knew that the odds were not great.
In fact, you've got a chapter devoted to well. It's. [00:13:00] Because of the odds that he gave this mission in speaking to one of the astronauts wives, right even Bill Anders one of the crew of Apollo 8 when he was asked by his wife, what are the chances for this sudden Mission? He thought it over and he knew his wife wanted a straight answer.
He never be asked with her. He thought it over and he considered very carefully. He told her I think there's a 1/3 chance of a successful Mission. I think there's a 1/3 chance of an unsuccessful mission in which somehow we. Get back home. And I think there's a one-third chance. We never come home and his wife Valerie exhaled and relief to her.
Those were very good odds given what was being proposed here? Everybody knew this was risky the risks were Myriad and they were epic. Any one of them could have been the end of Apollo 8 and I'll just give you one off the top of my head here sure for a Paula way to go to the Moon to deliver humans to the Moon it needed to use the Saturn V rocket.
The set of five was the only rocket [00:14:00] powerful enough to deliver humans to the moon, but think about this as you and I talk here at the end of 2018 the Saturn V Remains the most powerful machine ever built that's in a day and age when technology is obsolete in a matter of months 50 years later it Remains the most powerful machine ever built, but when George Lowe had the idea to fly Apollo 8 to the moon on the Saturn.
That rocket had only flown twice before both times in unmanned test missions the second of which had failed catastrophically. So now the proposition is that in the Saturn V s third flight ever. They're going to put three men who have wives and children aboard and they're not going to send them just a hundred miles above the Earth's surface into Earth orbit or even 853 miles above the Earth, which was the world altitude record at the time but 240,000 miles away.
To the Moon that alone was almost [00:15:00] Unthinkable. But remember this George lows Plan called for Apollo 8 to be trained for Planned conceived rehearsed worked out and launched in 16 weeks just for months. They had to do this and to correct all the problems and everything normally a mission at Nasa took a year to a year and a half of planning training.
Stimulating everything here. In order to do this the way low and crafts wanted to do it. They have to go in four months. It's almost Unthinkable so that the pressure to get this done correctly to to get the Saturn V ready in to take care of so many Myriad other issues the software hadn't been fully written yet.
The trajectories hadn't been finalized the deep space communication Network wasn't built the simulators. They needed to rely on so desperately to train for the mission weren't yet ready to be stood in. This was ready when this plan came only 16 weeks to prepare it there wasn't [00:16:00] even a crew yet.
That's what NASA was up against in the summer of 1968 when George Lowe came home from vacation, you know, it gives new meaning or new depth to the term audacious. I'm kind of glad that is a little kid following the Space Program very carefully that I wasn't aware of all of these risks. Let's talk about that crew that that had to ride this biggest rocket ever.
Before our sins I envy so many of my guests and now I deeply Envy you because of the relationships that you build while writing this book, especially with Frank Borman James Lovell and William Anders, all of whom are still with us amazingly somewhat amazingly and very happily tell me about these guys.
What do they have in common? How do they differ where they the right guys for the job? Well in some ways they could not have been more different by the way. They are three of the nicest most genuine regular warm guys. You'll ever meet and funny still just so funny and so sharp the three of the best guys I've [00:17:00] ever known but they were very very different bormann had joined NASA for a single purpose and that was to defeat the Soviet Union on the most important battle field anywhere.
Outer space he cared nothing about picking up rocks. He cared nothing about exploring the cosmos. He only wanted to defeat the Soviet Union to help the greatest country on Earth America prosper and survive. That was it Jim Lovell. In many ways was his opposite level had grown up very poor in Milwaukee.
His father had died when Jim was just a little boy and Jim had fallen in love with the idea of rockets and Rocket travel and space travel when he was in high school and ever since high school. He had dreamed of exploring the cosmos and even more important pushing into the unknown. Finding and arriving at places.
No one had ever been in the cosmos. He was a romantic about space. He even his thesis is graduate thesis at the Naval Academy. While others were writing about ancient Naval battles [00:18:00] and see tactics. He wrote about rocket travel. So they were very very different those to and yet they had flown together for two weeks.
Imagine that two weeks on Gemini 7 in 1965 and a spacecraft no larger than the front half of a vote. Megan Beetle, you have to tube very very different guys stuck together like that. You might imagine would make for disastrous consequences instead. They got along beautifully. They sang together.
They laughed together. In fact, when they splash down after 14 days and got on the recovery ship level announced to the Press. We'd like to announce our engagement. So they flew together beautifully, even though they were very different kinds of people Bill Anders who is going to be making his first spaceflight about aboard Apollo 8 C.
Beautiful combination of the two. He also was very intent on defeating the Soviet Union and space but also was a scientist and an explorer at heart. He loved geology. He was a nuclear engineer [00:19:00] and he loved the idea of exploration and arriving first. So he's kind of a combination of the two so you get this really perfect somehow perfect crew poised to make and just 16 weeks Mankind's first.
Journey to the Moon. Was Jim Lovell explorer that he was didn't bother him that he was one of very few people who made two trips to the moon and never got to set foot on it. But because of course he was the commander of Apollo 13, which barely made it back alive. That's right. And you know in the book I explain how learning during Apollo 8 when things went wrong on Apollo 8 helped him learn to survive on Apollo 13.
So the flights are connected in ways a lot of. Noba but Jim Lovell is not the kind of person to walk around the world feeling disappointed or dejected. He always seems to me to see the bright side and the Beautiful side of things. He'll tell you he just felt lucky to go twice to the moon [00:20:00] and that's how he thinks about not just his to Apollo missions, but about life in general.
Were these guys anxious about riding that biggest-ever Roman Candle up into space and around the Moon? I think they had great trust in Wernher von Braun and his crew of Rocket Engineers to fix whatever problems had gone wrong in April aboard Apollo six, the unmanned test second unmanned test of the Saturn V, and they were so busy cramming and.
Trying to make this Mission work in those 16 weeks of training that I don't think they had the time or mindspace to worry. I think they believed Von Braun and his people were the best in the world and at a friend Bronn believed he could fix the problems and make the Saturn V ready and they were ready to believe him.
There are so many wonderful little episodes unexpected players in this story that you tell so well I could mention 10, but I'm thinking in particular at this moment of of an [00:21:00] earlier aviation pioneer named Charles Lindbergh who plays a small role. Yes Lindbergh was fascinated with space flight and wanted to be present for Apollo 8.
He knew what this meant to the history of human. Beings that this was the first time we were ever leaving home and he wanted to be there and he wanted to be near the people who were going to do it. And in fact he visited with the crew of Apollo 8 just the day before they left and he was talking about his flight.
They wanted to know about his flight in 1927 and they were telling him all kinds of details and then he asked them about the amount of fuel that the Saturn V was going to expend and when the astronauts explain to him just how much fuel is going to burn. Lindbergh could hardly process it. In fact, he had to pull a napkin out of his out of his pocket.
He made calculations and I think he calculated that in the first second of the flight. They were going to burn [00:22:00] more fuel than he had burned all the way from New York to Paris in 1927. So he's launched himself into a different world just in the presence of these three astronauts and remained just transfixed by the whole idea of what Apollo 8 represented a Charming story.
Summer is approaching progress toward the launch of Apollo 8 is underway, and we were also progressing toward the end of one of the most troubling years in American history. It's such an interesting contrast. You make this a big part of the story that this was a time of disillusionment for many in the United States and yet here was this heroic Mission about to be attempted.
Yes. It's. To fully understand the story and the impact in the meaning of Apollo 8 without understanding the year in which it occurred 1968 save for the Civil War years. Perhaps was the single worst year in American history. [00:23:00] You have the assassinations of to civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were on our way to 15,000 dead in Vietnam.
There's violence in the streets every week including here in my hometown of Chicago at the Democratic National Convention. You have a president who says he will not run again for reelection who has lost the trust of the American people and maybe worst of all everybody in the country seems divided and porn against everyone else.
You know, there's Echoes by the way from 1968 to 2018, but it is a year of terrible divisiveness and. And yet here are this space mission is being planned. Not just for the very end of this terrible year, but George lows plan calls for Apollo 8 to be in lunar orbit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of 1968.
Now when they took that plan to Jim Webb the head of NASA requesting permission for a green light for Apollo 8 web [00:24:00] recited all the dangers some of which you and I have. Reviewed today, but then he reminded of them something they never considered. He said and this is a quote if anything happens to these three men.
No one poets lovers. No one will ever look at the Moon the same again, but that was also true of. If something went wrong with Apollo 8 at the moon, no one would ever look at Christmas or the moon the same again. I found a letter written by a schoolteacher in Connecticut to NASA begging them not to go and he makes this point he said this is the single worst year any of us has ever lived through or ever will live through but Christmas is that one day those few hours.
We all get where we can forget our differences. Exhale and just relax and enjoy the day. Please don't send them wait a month. It's not worth it to kill them on Christmas and yet NASA is committed to [00:25:00] go. So to understand the context of what was being proposed at the very end of this very very terrible year in this country's history is essential for understanding the flight itself.
So there they were on that fateful day in December sitting at the very tip of that as you said most powerful machine ever built during the countdown. We all know what happened. They they made it they launched for the moon. They launched for the moon. Although I'll tell you that in the first moments of the launch.
Bill Anderson wasn't sure that they were still alive or going to be alive the violence of the launch. The power of the Saturn V could not be anywhere near approximated by The Cutting Edge world-class simulators. They had trained in for the last couple months. No simulators were supposed to be able to reproduce anything but the violence in the power.
Of the Saturn V was so far. So many magnitudes beyond anything. They were expecting [00:26:00] that Anders wondered am I still alive here? He believed that the Rockets fins were being shorn off by the launch Tower their limbs were rendered unusable the violence cause them to be unable to see or read their instruments.
They couldn't hear mission control or each other nothing work. They just had to hope and pray that somehow this thing wasn't being torn apart as it felt like it was being. Paula weight represents firsts of so many kinds and this is the first manned Flight of the Saturn V. So no one was there before them to tell them this is what it would be like but somehow 10 or 12 seconds after launch and just looks around and he realized he hears a sound in his ear saying Tower cleared.
And he knows they're flying and so from that point, they're pretty much. Okay, I distinctly remember watching on my parents black and white television at home Walter Cronkite during this launch everything starts to shake the cameras are shaking the [00:27:00] windows the giant picture windows behind Walter Cronkite start to vibrate.
So badly that they really thought they were going to shatter just from the power of this. Enormous rocket that was what a couple of miles away. I think so. Yeah, it certainly made an impression on everybody who was not just there within earshot in Florida, but all of us around the world you go on from there to trace this mission.
Almost Moment by moment. And of course, we don't have time to go through all of that, but I highly recommend that people read it just to in addition to everything else we've talked about. I'll just bring up a couple of episodes and I'm thinking of one that you write about the comes at exactly 55 hours and 38 minutes into the flight of Apollo 8.
There are still tens of thousands of miles away from the Moon. Do you know the one I'm talking about? It was it was one of these many first of this Mission. Oh remind me it. When they stopped slowing down, oh, yes and [00:28:00] started speeding up the guess. There's a point in space and a changes depending on the location of Earth and the moon and even the sun called the equi gravis fear.
And that is the point in space where the gravitational pull of the Earth gives way to the gravitational pull of the moon. And again as you mention of all the firsts at Apollo 8 is going to experience this is yet another. And people are taking bets in Mission Control. When will that happen? What's the precise moment that that's going to happen because it was a very complicated calculation because the spacecraft as you say is slowing down as it as it draws further and further away from Earth.
But once it crosses the equa gravis fear, it's going to start picking up speed as the moon's gravity starts to pull it in and that's another world. First a human first that this is the capture of human beings by another Celestial body. So it's a very dramatic Moment In addition to a very wonderful scientific moment.
So then there was of course the [00:29:00] greatest first at least in the minds of most of us in the public who were who were traveling along with these astronauts to the. We that we were able and that was when they fired the engine. On their spacecraft and went into orbit around the Moon didn't just loop around it a free return trajectory, but actually went into orbit which which put them at greater risk as well.
Right Ryan. Think about how amazing NASA is all they really had to do to beat the Soviets was to send them around the moon in a circumlunar, you know free return trajectory as you note is that was what the Soviets were planning according to a top secret memo that had come in from the CIA in 1960.
Instead low and crafts set especially craft. Let's go for everything. Let's go into lunar orbit. Not just once but 10 times over 20 hours magnitudes more complicated. But as you say they need the single-engine that they have to get them in to lunar orbit to slow them down enough to be captured by the moon and that brings up another one of the great great dangers [00:30:00] that Apollo 8 undertook they were flying without a lunar module.
That's the whole reason this Mission came about the. Module was troubled and had production and design problems that were keeping it behind so they went without the lunar module but that lunar module served a very critical secondary function and that was as a backup engine. Well Apollo 8 goes without that and that's one of the primary dangerous because now they are reduced to one engine with no redundancy whatsoever.
They need that engine as you said to get into lunar orbit, but more importantly even they needed to get. So think about that if that engine doesn't work or if it misfires or fails in its in its duties, they have a smorgasbord of terrible consequences looking at them. So yes, they use the the use the single SPS engine to slow down enough get captured by lunar gravity and now they are in lunar orbit.
They are the first human beings ever to arrive at a new world. They're the first human beings ever to lay eyes on The Far Side of the Moon. You remind me. Of [00:31:00] course. That was the lunar module that did. Save Jim level and his teammates lives on the Apollo 13 mission. That's exactly right and here Apollo 8 goes without it.
So when you hear others at Nasa and other Apollo Astronauts talk about the beauty of Apollo 8 and the importance of it in the impact part of what they're thinking of is they had no backup. This engine is single engine had to work or they were never coming home. As a kid there may have been a lot about this Mission.
I did not understand but even as a kid, I understood that when we turned on the television and suddenly we were watching live TV coming from Three Guys circling the Moon that that was historic talk about that. Apollo 8 made for live television broadcasts on this journey two of them were on the way to the moon but the most important by far was the third which was scheduled for Christmas eve of 1968 and would occur on the ninth of ten revolutions around the Moon.
[00:32:00] They told Frank Borman who was the commander of Apollo. That more people would be listening and watching this broadcast and had ever tuned into a human voice at once in history. They expected no pressure. No pressure. They expected nearly a third of the world's population to tune in and under those great great circumstances.
They gave him this. Say something appropriate and they left it at that and bormann lasted to this day. He's got the best laugh in the world. He says, can you imagine getting those instructions today? He said it was today and so much was on the line there before teen focus groups and 15 committees, and it would go through the White House and marketing agencies.
They just left it to bore me. He struggled the other astronauts struggled, but finally when they left they had something that was suggested actually by the wife of a literary man that they knew but they didn't tell anyone what they were going to say. They didn't tell NASA. They didn't tell their wives only they and a couple other people knew what was going to be said but here and you can watch us on YouTube.
It is thrilling to [00:33:00] see a television screen flicker to life from 50 years ago and be told. These astronauts are coming to you live from the moon. It's unbelievable and they did a pretty good job with with what they decided to to do during that broadcast. I mean other than showing us the Moon and Earth well that they gave a tour of the Moon.
They said what their experience had been like where they've been what their feelings were but then with about a minute to go before the signal went dark Bill and or said that they have a message to deliver to everybody who's. Listening and watching and in Mission Control you talk to all the people Mission Control they'll tell you their legs were shaking their knees were wobbling had no idea what was coming.
But that was true. Also in the homes of the astronauts and around the world. Nobody had any idea and hearts are pounding. And Bill Anders starts to read from the book of Genesis. He says in the beginning God created and even before he had the first sentence out people [00:34:00] around the world broke into tears and Mission Control these men these hardened engineers and managers a many of them had tears streaming down their faces the wives of the astronauts were sobbing.
M switch reading a creation story. It was a story that was devoid of Borders or of tribes or of conflict. It was about so many of us it's spoke to so many of us and it was about all of us about how we got here and who we were he read his few lines and then Louisville took over and read his few lines and finally Borman read the final few lines and just with a few seconds to go before the spacecraft lost transmission signal to Earth.
Foreman wished everybody a Merry Christmas. God bless. He said a Merry Christmas to everyone on The Good Earth The Good Earth. He said and then the transmission went dark and around the world people streamed out from schools from homes from. From taverns from under bridges looking Skyward [00:35:00] hoping to catch a glimpse of the spacecraft and these three men who had spoken to this world as one knowing full well that they could never see the spacecraft or the men but looking all the same.
That's what that broadcast meant to America and the world the reading of Genesis on Christmas Eve. Robert just you're telling of that story has me welling up a little bit and I'm so proud of the fact that I was actually on this planet and able to experience it. But of course you can find video of this and much of the rest of the mission.
Okay, so they finish their orbits of the Moon they have another hairy moment when they fire that engine to send them back to Earth trans. Injection and it works of course and they're on their way back. There was another very frightening episode. As the astronauts were on that trip home, which I wasn't even aware of until I read your book and you documented in a [00:36:00] chapter called Help from an old friend tell us about this.
Well, there are cruising back to Earth and things look very good for them. Now and Jim Lovell who is the navigator on board is working out star sightings through his telescope and he is so great at it. And so Adept at it that his fingers are flying. He was actually given the name golden fingers. He was so good at the machine in the computer and entering.
Locations just for location in the universe. But accidentally he pushed the wrong numbers entered the wrong numbers into the system and suddenly the spacecraft believe that it was back on the Launchpad back home and it's through the entire orientation of the spacecraft out of whack. And it was extremely concerning to Anders and to Borman because if you don't have the orientation, you don't know where you are exactly in space and you don't know how the spacecraft should be oriented for the return and for reentry.
So this is a very very serious problem and it has to [00:37:00] be worked out the way that NASA and the astronauts and level especially figured out how to work it out is breathtaking it's worth. I think the whole story is worth it. To see how they figure this out because it was quite a harrowing time. But part of what helped to save level was finding the moon from the spacecraft help from an old friend now it's so interesting to talk to Jim Lovell because he'll tell you that part of learning to reorient themselves during that.
Issue on the way back from Apollo 8 also helped them during the return of Apollo 13 and that's what I meant earlier when I said Apollo 13 owes a lot to Apollo 8. So this is just another one of many many thrilling moments as the astronauts make their journey to and from the moon so they obviously make it back.
They are treated as the heroes that they obviously had earned that status along with the thousands of other people on the Apollo and Saturn five teams at. So [00:38:00] and all the contractors who had made this happen and set the stage for the great successes to follow culminating in Apollo 11. If we ever forget Apollo 8, which I hope will never happen.
I trust will never happen. There's got to be one thing in its Legacy which will never be forgotten because it is such a striking image and I wonder if you agree with me about that earthrise image. I do the astronauts returned with a lot of. That they shot at the moon but my mind the most important shot.
They took also is the to my way of thinking the most the single most important and Powerful photograph ever taken. It was taken by Bill Anders on the fourth revolution of the Moon of the Earth rising over. The lunar landscape they had never trained to see the Earth to photograph the Earth. They never expected it.
They were so consumed with training for the flight itself that the Earth was kind of an afterthought, but when it started to rise over this vast and [00:39:00] all gray lunar landscape against this pitch black Infinity of space when they saw that first splash of color that beautiful Brilliant Blue come up over the horizon.
You can hear their excitement. You can also watch that on YouTube and you can hear their excitement. This is. The miraculous it's something Transcendent to them and they shoot pictures and versus the principal photographer on the mission and he has a long lens and color film and maybe most important he has an artist's eye and he captures that earthrise image whether people know it or not.
Everyone is familiar with Apollo 8 because everyone knows that image again, I think it is the single most important and Powerful photograph ever taken it became the inspiration for the environmental movement, but even more important it was our. First look back at ourselves as a whole it changed the astronauts and how they felt about the world and about the things they love and it's almost impossible to view that photograph without having a real Reckoning with how beautiful the Earth is and how lucky [00:40:00] we are to live on.
No argument from me it remains as stunning as it was when we first saw it not long after they return from the Moon. Is there another event or maybe little-known Dusty corner of this great tale that that stands out in your mind that you'd want to share with us. It was amazing to see what happened when the astronauts returned from Apollo 8 Time Magazine had originally named that the center as its man of the year that the center but by the.
I'm Apollo 8 return they change their mind to the crew of Apollo 8. That's an honor that time didn't even bestow on Apollo 11, which made the first lunar Landing of course, but he may be even more important as we said it came at the end of this year and when they came home they were greeted as conquering Heroes.
They had ticker-tape parades and various cities millions of people came out tens of thousands of cards and letters and telegrams came. Of course the astronauts couldn't read them all but one of them stood out in their minds and all three of them will tell you they'll never [00:41:00] forget it. It said simply thanks you saved 1968 and it really was true.
It was a year that needed saving and it couldn't have been done in any other way by any other people at any other time in history and I think that really lives with us and I think we could use Heroes like that and another Apollo 8 again for our. And how Frank Borman and James Lovell, they're both going to turn 91 this coming March while William Anders is about five years younger.
You've partially answered this but how has the Legacy The Experience Apollo 8 affected their lives in all these years since. I think they're very proud to have been the first humans ever to arrive at the moon. But I think they viewed it as their duty to the country and a privilege to go for the country and they'll all three tell you that while they were taking a tremendous Risk by flying this it was nothing compared to the risk being undertaken by so many people in the military every [00:42:00] day in that very terrible year.
We had in Vietnam. And so while they are happy to be recognized for it. I think they hope that the other people who died in the line of duty for this country are recognized. Also Robert. It has been a thrill to be able to talk about this story with you. It is a story you tell so well, thank you for doing that and thank you for joining us on planetary radio.
It's totally my privilege and honor I can't thank you enough for having me. That's Robert Kirsten. He is the author of Rocket men the daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the astronauts who made Man's first journey to the moon and it's available from random house. And of course all the other well, that's the publisher but it's available from all the places you would expect to be able to find a terrific book like this and I recommend it highly.
For what's up on planetary radio? We wrap up with Bruce Betts. He is the chief scientist for the planetary society. And [00:43:00] hey Emily mentioned that there is this light sail update in the new edition of the planetary report, which as we talked with her about is available online a planetary dot, Oregon and you provide that update don't you I did I wrote it and everything.
Anyway, that's that's waiting for you there on the website. Waiting for us in the night sky. Not light sail to not yet. It's chilling hard waiting for a lunch. But in the night's game, you know what I'm not a fan of the pre-dawn but even I might get up for the pre-dawn maybe not but if you're up in the pre-dawn go out and looking at least we've got Mercury and Jupiter and Venus Mercury and Jupiter switching places.
So they'll be particularly close together shortly after this episode comes out on the 21st of December and then. We'll be getting higher and Mercury lower Jupiter is much brighter than Mercury and then follow the line up to the upper. Right and you won't be able to [00:44:00] miss Venus up higher looking super super bright.
So they make this spectacular planetary lineup and if that weren't enough. For New Year's I have arranged for you Matt. When you're back partying with New Horizons, if you you're awake in the pre-dawn, you look in the East going from upper right to lower left will have the Venus and the Venus the Venus and the Moon.
Hanging out near each other crescent moon and do it slower Left Jupiter lower left Mercury. It'll be cool. I suspect I will be awake yet out at APL although probably with a roof over my head. If I can't I'll go outside and check out that gift. There you go. And also for those who aren't up in the pre-dawn or if you are in the early evening in the southwest, you can see Mars to look in reddish.
I'm bright. So we move on to this week in space history and is you and the listeners may be where 50 year anniversary of Apollo 8 orbiting the moon. Yeah. [00:45:00] Yeah, we had an inkling of that but it's worth repeating and let's move on to random space fact, but I was straight forward. It's the new attempt to not make myself going to a coughing fit when I'm sick.
You probably covered some of this in the show, but they're just so many firsts for the three astronaut crew of Apollo 8 Borman Lovell and Anders. They became you ready for this. They became the first humans to travel Beyond low-earth orbit. First humans to see the Earth as a whole planet. First enter the gravity well of another Celestial body first to orbit another Celestial body first to see The Far Side of the Moon first to witness and photograph an earth rise for humans first to escape the gravity of another Celestial body.
And first to re-enter Earth's gravitational. Well, I could have made that into like 10 weeks of random space facts and that was a great list and no we didn't cover all of those. [00:46:00] So I thank you for that that addition we move on to the trivia contest and I asked. But spacecraft was being the operative word was going to visit Comet 46 P were very tan.
We're at you know that comment that it was just kind of visible with binoculars in the sky. How do we do? What a response to this is a huge response and thank you to all of you who sent nice holiday greetings and just very nice messages about the about the show. Of course. We only have time to go through a few of these beginning with someone who I think is our first-time winner Dustin siegrist Dustin siegrist in Bedford, Texas who says the would be visitor to that Comet later diverted to someplace else where.
Gained Justified Fame was Rosetta and her little friend as he puts it feel a. That is correct. Congratulations Dustin you are [00:47:00] going to get among other things that beautiful second edition of the National Geographic space Atlas mapping the universe and Beyond and National Geographics Almanac 2019, those beautiful books and we're going to give away another set of those in next week's contest.
Also, of course a planetary radio t-shirt and a 200 point. I telescope dotnet astronomy account more about those in a. Moment. Of course, we got some other entries as well now Harari Rao in Sugar Land, Texas on a feta neighbor of Dustin's he says that it was named after car Alvar virtanen. We're Tenon discovered in 1948 discovered a total of five comets and three asteroids.
Did you know all that I imagine maybe you were going to tell us that. Sure. Gee, I've saved you the trouble Paul molten in London Merry Old London. He says he's looking forward to being in the Italian Alps [00:48:00] to see 46 p on December 16th. He says he'll get his group out in the evening snow to see it.
Well, we're past that now. I hope you were able to spy it up there in the sky Paul and finally from our Poet Laureate Dave Fairchild in Shawnee, Kansas. When he's addressed Rosetta for her cometary dance, they had another Suitor one that failed to romance an Ariane exploded and with launching window missed they went to 67p and virtanen got dis.
Wow. That was impressive. All right, we're ready to go on this may just be a test of whether you were listening earlier in the show, or maybe not but how many orbits. Apollo 8 complete of the Moon how many art times around the Moon did Apollo 8 go go to planetary dot org slash radio contest you have until the 26th at would be December 26th Wednesday at 8 a.m.
In the morning a specific [00:49:00] time to get your answer in and I'll bet you won't be surprised to hear that the winner this time around is chosen by random dot or. If you have the right answer is going to get a copy of Robert karstens Rocketman the daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the astronauts who made Man's first journey to the moon, but not just that also a planetary radio t-shirt, which you can check out at chop shop store.com and the planetary Society store and a 200 point.
I telescope Dot. Astronomy account from that worldwide network of telescopes that's worth a couple hundred bucks. You can take a look at Mars take a look at 67p if you're quick, although I guess binoculars might do a better job finally one other message that I wanted to read from Dylan Boren poll who says my dog ate my rubber asteroid any chance of getting a new one.
Well stay tuned because guess what they may. [00:50:00] Making a comeback enough said and we're done. All right, everybody go out there. Look up the night sky and think about how you can have a happy holidays. Thank you and good night. I get a happy holiday every time I get to talk to Bruce Betts the chief scientist of plan of the planetary Society.
Hey, get well guy and have a great holiday. Thank you yours. He joins us every week here for what's up planetary radio is produced by the planetary Society in Pasadena, California and is made possible by its shoot the moon members Mary Liz vendors our associate producer Josh soil composed our theme which was arranged and performed by Peter Schlosser.