Special Report

20 Facts You Need to Know About the Apollo 8 Mission

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The crew

The crew of Apollo 8 were Frank Borman, James Lovell Jr., and William Anders. Borman and Lovell, both now 90 years old and the oldest living astronauts, had each commanded a Gemini mission. Borman commanded Apollo 8. Anders, now 85 years old, was Apollo 8’s designated lunar module pilot. The backup crew were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Fred W. Haise Jr. Armstrong and Aldrin would achieve glory as the first two people to set foot on the moon.

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Saturn V

The Saturn V rocket engines were massive F-1 rocket engines, the most powerful ever constructed. Apollo 8 was the first piloted mission launched with the Saturn V. Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and North American Aviation built the three stages of the Saturn V.

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Faster than anyone

Two hours and 50 minutes after liftoff, the Saturn V’s third stage fired, propelling the spacecraft to 24,208 mph, faster than any human had ever flown, according to NASA.

Source: Washington Secretary of State

Space queasiness

Apollo 8 was the first U.S. mission in which the crew members had mild motion sickness, similar to seasickness. The symptoms lasted between two hours and 24 hours and did not affect the mission.

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Pull of the moon

About 55 hours into the mission, NASA told the crew that they had become the first humans to travel to a place where the pull of Earth’s gravity was less than that of another entity. At that point, the moon’s gravitational pull on Apollo 8 had become stronger than that of the Earth.

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Out of contact

Apollo 8 neared the moon early on Christmas Eve and prepared for the firing of its propulsion system engine that would send the crew into lunar orbit. This action would take place on the other side of the moon when the crew was out of contact with Earth. After about 37 minutes, data began pouring into Mission Control that indicated Apollo 8 was in lunar orbit.

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