Apollo 8 — man's first journey to the moon… Nov 21, 2018 20:40:06 GMT 12
Post by kiwithrottlejockey on Nov 21, 2018 20:40:06 GMT 12
50 years ago this coming Christmas, three astronauts — Frank Borman, James Lovell and Bill Anders — journeyed away from earth in Apollo 8 and went into orbit around the moon. They completed ten lunar orbits throughout Christmas Eve (it was Christmas Day in New Zealand), then departed moon orbit a few minutes into Christmas Day (American-time) and returned to earth. It was one of the most daring manned space missions ever undertaken and it was all put together in only four months due to paranoia that Russian cosmonauts were about to beat American astronauts to the moon. There was no lunar module, meaning that if anything went wrong with the service module engine, there would have been no way to accelerate out of moon orbit and return to earth. As we saw with the later Apollo 13 mission which went disasterously wrong, it was the lunar module with its rocket engine which saved the day and allowed the crew to safely return to earth from the brink of disaster.
I was just a few weeks short of my 15th birthday when the Apollo 8 mission occured and I can still vividly recall the wonderment as we sat down to Christmas dinner that year, that three men were orbiting the moon a quarter-of-a-million miles away out in space. When the mission was first announced in August, our mathematics teacher at Karamu High School in Hastings put together an entire double-period lesson on the physics and mathematics involved in successfully getting to the moon and back; and right after the August school holidays, in the very first week of the third school term, we received that lesson over a period of an hour-and-a-half. It was real fascinating stuff.
I grew up with early space exploration — I was 3½-years-old when Sputnik was launched and cannot specifically remember that being launched, although I became aware of Sputnik not long afterwards — and I can remember the first animals launched into orbit by both the Russians and the Americans, as well as the first manned space flights, and the entire Gemini program and corresponding Russian space missions as both sides of the iron curtain raced for the moon. But it was Apollo 8 which really caught the attention of the world, even though it was Apollo 11 the following year which grabbed all the glory. I can recall an interview with Neil Armstrong many years ago where he was asked if Apollo 11 was man's greatest exploration achievement, and he replied that in his opinion it was Apollo 8 which really pushed the boundaries and proved it was possible to fly to the moon, enter into lunar orbit, then successfully return to earth; whereas Apollo 11 merely did what had already been done except that instead of merely going close to the moon's surface as Apollo 10 had done, they actually descended the last few hundred feet and landed, with most of the daring stuff having been already achieved with the earlier missions and in particular Apollo 8.
Earlier this year, an amazing book about the Apollo 8 mission called “Rocket Men” by Robert Kurson was published and I purchased a copy from Powell's Book World in Portland, Oregon on the date it was released and it turned up in my PO Box a week later. I thoroughly enjoyed reading that book, which was reviewed in The New York Times. I have had a copy of Michael Collins' book “Carrying The Fire” about the Apollo 11 mission for about three decades (it's actually stashed in a bookcase in my bedroom), but this new book is one which is very hard to put down once you start reading it.
Below is The New York Times review of the book “Rocket Man”, followed by a further New York Times article about a documentary (included within the article) about the Apollo 8 mission, looking back 50 years. All three Apollo 8 astronauts are still alive (Frank Borman and James Lovell are 90 years old and Bill Anders is 87) and both Borman and Anders still hold current private pilots' licences and own their own private aeroplanes. All three of them are still with their life-long wives too, although Frank Borman's wife, Susan, is unfortunately suffering from advanced Alzheimer's.
from The New York Times…
Book Review: The Paradoxes and the Glory
of Apollo 8's Journey Around the Moon
By M.G. LORD | Tuesday, May 15, 2018
IN December 1968, my parents and I prayed for Bill Anders. We prayed for Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, too. Aboard the Apollo 8 spacecraft, these men were hurtling toward the moon — the first-ever humans to break free from Earth's gravity. But Anders was special. Like my father, he was an engineer and an outspoken Roman Catholic. After dark on Christmas Eve, we huddled near our TV, expecting a jargon-filled broadcast from lunar orbit.
Instead, with an image of Earth onscreen, Anders read the opening of Genesis. Lovell followed. Borman concluded: “And God saw that it was good” — astonishingly hopeful words in 1968, a year shattered by violent protests and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
NASA had not vetted their text. At Mission Control, the brass was stunned, yet moved. My mother gasped. This moment — this respite from conflict and despair — still shimmers in my memory, brighter than Neil Armstrong's historic moonwalk. Even fierce space program critics like Leonard Bernstein were struck by it. During Borman's reading, the novelist William Styron later recalled, there was a “depthless and inexpressible” look on Bernstein's face.
For people who were not alive in 1968 — or kids whose dads did not chart the craft's every move on a family bulletin board — Robert Kurson's “Rocket Men” is a riveting introduction to the flight. The book takes off when Apollo's massive launch vehicle, the Saturn V, rises — an experience like “watching the Empire State Building leave Earth.”
“Rocket Men” author, Robert Kurson.
— Photograph: Matt Ferguson.
Kurson details the mission in crisp, suspenseful scenes, interspersed with quieter history-driven chapters. The astronauts were not prepared for the ferocity of blastoff. In the ground-based flight simulator, they had modeled all manner of disasters, including fatal ones. “Dying helped the men learn to survive,” Kurson writes. But the mock-up never replicated the roar, the shuddering or the G-forces of the real thing.
Nor were they prepared for their own frailty; they were test pilots in top physical shape. But several hours into the mission, Borman suddenly vomited and had a bout of explosive diarrhea — too extensive to be either contained or cleaned up. The waste particles, reminders of their humanness, would travel with them. When the capsule splashed down in the Pacific, a rescuer poked his head in and recoiled — because, he told the men, of “the way you smelled.”
Soon, however, annoyances within the cabin were eclipsed by what was outside: the majesty of the moon, as well as that of our home planet — its brilliant blues and browns a contrast to the relentless lunar gray. In 1968, NASA itself was as colorless as the moon. Its work force was overwhelmingly white, Christian and male. Mission Control had no women's restroom because there were no women. And the press fetishized the helpmate status of the astronauts' wives — a detail that galled me even as a child.
If “Rocket Men” has a minor shortcoming, it is a sin of omission. Although Kurson's source notes mention “papers once secret” that “have now been declassified,” he is silent on Operation Paperclip, the government program that sanitized the war records of Nazi engineers. He writes that the American aviator Charles Lindbergh, often seen as pro-Nazi, had “controversial political views.” But Wernher von Braun, who was a Nazi SS officer, gets a pass — as does the Saturn V manager Arthur Rudolph, who fled to Germany in 1984 rather than face a denaturalization hearing based on his war crimes.
Kurson understands paradox: “The astronauts had come all this way to discover the moon, and yet here they had discovered the Earth.” But because this gripping book will acquaint new people with the space program, I wish he had touched on the program's paradoxes and ethical complexity. Against a dark background, the triumph of Apollo 8 would not appear any less radiant.
• “ROCKET MEN — The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon” by Robert Kurson.
• Illustrated. 372 pp. Random House. $28.
• M. G. Lord is the author of “Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science”, a family memoir about Cold War aerospace culture. She is working on a graphic novel that deals with astronauts.
from The New York Times…
A First Glimpse of Our Magnificent Earth,
Seen From the Moon
The first people to view our planet from the
moon were transformed by the experience.
In this film, they tell their story.
By EMMANUEL VAUGHAN-LEE | Tuesday, October 02, 2018
ON December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida. The astronaut crew — Frank Borman, Bill Anders and James Lovell — were the first humans to escape Earth's orbit, venturing about 240,000 miles farther than anyone before them.
Their mission was to orbit the moon, testing the viability of a future moon landing. NASA was focused on getting to the moon and beating the Soviet Union in the space race; everything else, including photography, was secondary. Yet during their lunar orbit, the crew emerged from the dark side of the moon to see the Earth rising before them over the lunar horizon. They scrambled to capture the image, producing the first color photograph taken of the Earth from the moon. It became known as “Earthrise” and has become one of the most well-known photographs in history.
The iconic “Earthrise” photograph shifted the vision of space exploration from one that leaves Earth behind to one that marvels in the rare magnificence and beauty of our home planet. It ushered in a collective awareness of the Earth as a whole, transcending borders and boundaries, and came to be used by many to instill a sense of wonder, awe and stewardship toward the planet. It was a natural inspiration for the creation of Earth Day, and subsequently for the environmental movement as a whole.
I've always loved the Earth photography captured during the Apollo missions, and the “Earthrise” image is particularly poignant for me. In all the tellings I watched or read of Apollo 8 — and there are many — I wanted to experience more. I wanted to know the story behind the photograph, to know what it was like for the first human beings to see and experience Earth from space.
I wondered what role this image could offer us 50 years later as we face intense political, social and ecological upheaval. Could it become a symbol of remembrance that unites us?
All these years later, the Apollo 8 astronauts still remembered every detail of their mission and their experience looking back at the Earth. I had approached the interviews with all sorts of ideas about the profound insights they would share, the epiphanies they must have had and how it had forever changed their lives. And while they offered these insights during the interviews, they also provided something much simpler, something much more human that touched me the most. It was as if seeing the Earth from the moon had awakened a primordial feeling within each of them. Home.
My editor Adam Loften and I spent countless hours reviewing archive footage and photography from the Apollo missions. The tactile quality of the 16 mm footage and 70 mm photography imparted a quality I felt was lacking from the crisp digital images from satellites and the International Space Station I'd become accustomed to seeing. I could almost feel the human presence behind the lens, a sense of emotion that was imparted to the footage itself. In telling the story, I wanted to create that human connection to the Earth I felt within the footage and the astronauts' experiences. I wanted to explore how to feel and witness the Earth as our home the way they had. I wanted to share the awe and beauty they had experienced, to remember the power of this image they shared with the world.
• EARTHRISE — THE IMAGE THAT SHARED OUR WORLD
• Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee is a documentary filmmaker and composer. His previous Op-Docs are “Who Speaks Wukchumni?”, “Vanishing Island” and “Sanctuaries of Silence”.