'Spirit of Apollo': Watch Apollo 8 50th-Anniversary Webcast Tonight

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum is celebrating the 50th anniversary of NASA's epic Apollo 8 moon mission tonight (Dec. 11), and you can watch the event live.

The museum is presenting a program called "Spirit of Apollo" at Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., tonight at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT on Dec. 12). The event is sold out, but you can watch a webcast of it live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA.

"The evening's program will include remarks by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell, as well as Ellen Stofan, the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the National Air and Space Museum," NASA officials wrote in a statement. [Apollo 8: NASA's First Crewed Trip Around the Moon in Pictures]

"There also will be remarks by leaders from the National Cathedral and Episcopal Church, including the Most Rev. Michael Curry, who will discuss the spiritual meaning of exploration," they added. "In addition, the program will include video presentations and a choral performance recreating the Apollo 8 Christmas Eve broadcast, as well as a lighting of the National Cathedral and its space window."

The famous "Earthrise" photo taken by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders on Dec. 24, 1968. The sunset terminator is seen crossing Africa. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Anders)

Apollo 8 was the first mission ever to take astronauts to a world beyond Earth. Crewmembers Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders launched on Dec. 21, 1968, and reached lunar orbit three days later, on Christmas Eve. 

On that day — Dec. 24, 1968 — the crew beamed a live television broadcast down to Earth, as NASA officials noted in their statement, and Anders snapped one of the most famous photos in human history. His stunning "Earthrise" shot showed our planet looming over the moon's battered gray surface, giving humanity a new perspective on its home world.

The Apollo 8 crew did not touch down on the lunar surface; they orbited the moon 20 times, then returned home to Earth for a successful splashdown on Dec. 27, 1968. Apollo 11 moonwalkers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the first-ever boot prints in the lunar dirt, in July 1969.

Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate) is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Originally published on Space.com

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.