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Coming Monday: 50 years after Apollo 8, the moon flight that captivated the world

December 22, 2018

Coming Monday: 50 years after Apollo 8, the moon flight that captivated the world

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- “We close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God Bless all of you. All of you on the good Earth.”

Fifty years ago, the largest television/radio audience in history watched and listened world-wide as Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman uttered the final words of a television transmission unparalleled in modern civilization. Borman and crewmates Jim Lovell and William Anders had just finished a telecast from 60 miles above the surface of the moon -- pointing a black-and-white camera out one of the elliptical windows of the command module to reveal a close-up look (if somewhat fuzzy thanks to static) of lunar craters and mountain ranges.

Somewhere down there, eight months in the future, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would touch down in the Sea of Tranquility and be the first humans to step on the moon. But on Christmas Eve, Borman, Lovell and Anders were the first explorers to cross a quarter-million-mile void to see up close the lunar surface. It came on a flight that threw away its original mission plan and challenged scientists, mathematicians and engineers around the country to take the biggest step in America’s race with the Soviet Union to reach the moon and return safely home.

Monday we remember the most audacious voyage in human history on its 50th anniversary, and how the 10 verses of Genesis that the three Apollo 8 astronauts read back to Earth was the fitting capstone to a Christmas Eve shared by 1 billion Earthlings. How one spouse admitted she didn’t believe she would see her husband again when the Saturn V rocket launched mankind toward the moon on Dec. 21. How fine a line NASA walked throughout the space race between thrilling success and total disaster.

And, in the end, how a photo and those 10 Bible verses marked one of the greatest explorations ever.

It comes Monday on cleveland.com. Enjoy the preview video above.

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