NASA is deep in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, the first time humans ever went to the moon — and a new video released today (Dec. 21) by the agency shares the story of that historic mission from the perspective of its three crewmembers, James Lovell, William Anders and Frank Borman.
The trio blasted off 50 years ago today, on Dec. 21, 1968. They had been given just four months to prepare for their flight, a rush prompted by the sense that the Soviet Union would beat Americans to the moon.
Rather than cede another milestone in the space race, NASA decided to reorganize its flight plan, turning what was originally an Earth-orbital mission into what became a historic moment. It became the first time humans left Earth orbit.
In the video, the trio recount what it was like to see the Earth from such a distance, and to get humanity's first close-up view of the moon. The crew circled the moon a total of 10 times during the weeklong mission, snapping images of the lunar surface and potential landing sites for future missions.
"We saw the far side, we were like school-kids looking through a candy-store window, just staring at the unnamed craters as they slowly passed us by," Lovell said in the video.
By the time they had safely returned, the Apollo 8 crew had paved the way for the missions that would follow, including all six eventual moon landings. But the video doesn't only look back — it also looks ahead, to NASA's much-touted plans to return Americans to the moon, this time as a longterm endeavor.
"We need to be a world leader, not just in the Earth but in space," Borman said to close the video.