“Say something appropriate.” –NASA instructions for Apollo 8‘s Christmas Eve broadcast
The date was December 24, 1968. Apollo 8 was the first spaceflight to reach the Moon’s orbit. On board were three astronauts: Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders. According to NASA, the men’s chances of making it back to Earth alive were about 50/50.
It was Christmas Eve, and the crew of Apollo 8 delivered a live, televised Christmas Eve broadcast. Millions of enthralled TV viewers watched as the astronauts transmitted a blurry but miraculous image of the lunar surface as seen out the window of their capsule. Then they heard the voice of Bill Anders:
“We are now approaching lunar sunrise and, for all the people back on earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light…'”
The astronauts took turns reading the first 10 verses of Genesis. Then Frank Borman said: “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.” Listen to the recording below:
The crew of Apollo 8 returned to earth safely on December 27, 1968.