Senior NASA managers were still evaluating the objectives for Apollo 8 in October. They considered three possibilities for the mission: an Earth orbital flight deeper into space, a circumlunar flyover, and a lunar orbit mission.
Waiting on Apollo 7
Following the completion of the Apollo 7 mission on Oct. 22, the decision to go ahead with a lunar orbit mission was made on Nov. 12, five weeks before the scheduled launch of Apollo 8. The decision was made after evaluating the performance of the spacecraft during Apollo 7’s 10-day journey in Earth’s orbit and an examination of the risks of a lunar orbit mission.
Apollo 8 was scheduled to fly the same route to the moon as the lunar landing would in 1969.
Among the concerns involved in the Apollo 8 mission was the reliability of the service propulsion engine that would thrust the spacecraft out of lunar orbit.
Go time for ‘TLI’
On Dec. 21, 1968, NASA’s Mission Control gave Apollo 8’s crew approval for TLI — trans-lunar injection. This was NASA-speak for clearing the astronauts to become the first people to leave Earth’s orbit. Their destination, the moon, was 234,000 miles away.
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