Apollo 8 was the second human flight in the program and the first human
lunar orbit mission. Apollo 8 was the second human flight in the program and the
first human lunar orbit mission.
James Lovell, Jr.
Dec. 21, 1968
7:51 a.m. EST
Dec. 27, 1968
10:51 a.m. EST
days, 3 hours,
0 min., 42 seconds
Apollo 8 was the second human
flight in the program and the first human lunar orbit mission. It was
the first manned flight using a Saturn V launch vehicle. Astronauts
Frank Borman, James A. Lovell Jr. and William A. Anders became the first
humans to see the far side of the Moon.
The mission achieved
operational experience and tested the Apollo Command Module systems,
including communications, tracking and life-support, in cislunar space
and lunar orbit, and allowed evaluation of crew performance on a lunar
orbiting mission. The crew photographed the lunar surface, both farside
and nearside, obtaining information on topography and landmarks as well
as other scientific information necessary for future Apollo landings.
The Apollo 8 spacecraft
consisted of a Command Module similar to Apollo 7 except that the
forward pressure and ablative hatches were replaced by a combined
forward hatch, which would be used for transfer to the Lunar Module on
later missions. The spacecraft mass of 28,817 kilograms (63,531 pounds)
is the mass of the Command and Service Module, including propellants and
expendables. A Lunar Module was not used on the Apollo 8 mission, but a
Lunar Module Test Article which was equivalent in mass -- 9,027
kilograms (19,901 pounds) -- to a Lunar Module was mounted in the
spacecraft/launch vehicle adapter as ballast for mass loading purposes.
Demonstrate crew/space vehicle/mission support facilities during
manned Saturn V/CSM mission. Demonstrate translunar injection, CSM
navigation, communications, and midcourse corrections. Assess CSM
consumables and passive thermal control. Demonstrate CSM performance
in cislunar and lunar orbit environment. Demonstrate communications
and tracking at lunar distances. Return high-resolution photographs
of proposed Apollo landing sites and locations of scientific
interest. All mission objectives were achieved.
December 27, 1968; 10:52 am EST; Landing point 8deg 7.5min North
and 165deg 1.2min West. Miss distance was 2.5km; Splashdown time,
December 27, 1968 at 10:52 a.m. EST; MET: 147:00:42. Crew on board
U.S.S Yorktown at 12:20 p.m. EST; Spacecraft aboard ship at 01:20
Apogee, 190 kilometers; perigee 180 kilometers. Translunar
injection at 02:56:05.5 MET; maximum distance from earth, 376,745
kilometers; lunar orbit insertion 69:08:20 MET; lunar orbit 312km by
111km; transearth injection, 89:19:17 MET.
In lunar orbit 20 hours, with 10 orbits. First manned lunar
orbital mission. Support facilities tested. Photographs taken of Earth
and Moon. Live TV broadcasts.
The Apollo program was an American spaceflight endeavor that
landed the first humans on Earth's Moon. Conceived during the presidency of
Dwight D. Eisenhower and conducted by NASA, Apollo began in earnest after
President John F. Kennedy's May 25, 1961 special address to a joint session of
Congress declaring a national goal of "landing a man on the Moon" by the end of
This goal was accomplished with the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969 when
astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon, while Michael
Collins remained in lunar orbit. Five subsequent Apollo missions also landed
astronauts on the Moon, the last in December 1972. In these six Apollo
spaceflights, twelve men walked on the Moon. These are the only times humans
have landed on another celestial body.
The Apollo program ran from 1961 until 1975, and was the US civilian space
agency's third human spaceflight program (following Mercury and Gemini). Apollo
used Apollo spacecraft and Saturn launch vehicles, which were later used for the
Skylab program and the joint American-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. These
subsequent programs are thus often considered part of the Apollo program.
The program was accomplished with only two major setbacks. The first was the
Apollo 1 launch pad fire that resulted in the deaths of astronauts Gus Grissom,
Ed White and Roger Chaffee. The second was an oxygen tank rupture on Apollo 13
during the moonward phase of its journey, which disabled the command spacecraft.
The three astronauts aboard narrowly escaped with their lives, thanks to the
efforts of flight controllers, project engineers, backup crew members and the
skills of the astronauts.
Apollo set major milestones in human spaceflight. It stands alone in sending
manned missions beyond low Earth orbit; Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft
to orbit another celestial body, while Apollo 17 marked the last moonwalk and
the last manned mission beyond low Earth orbit. The program spurred advances in
many areas of technology incidental to rocketry and manned spaceflight,
including avionics, telecommunications, and computers. Apollo sparked interest
in many fields of engineering and left many physical facilities and machines
developed for the program as landmarks. Many objects and artifacts from the
program are on display at locations throughout the world, notably in the
Smithsonian's Air and Space Museums.
Unmanned suborbital flight was the first test flight of Saturn 1B and of the
Apollo Command and Service Modules; problems included a fault in the
electrical power system and a 30 percent decrease in pressure to the service
module engine 80 seconds after firing.
never launched: command module destroyed and three astronauts killed on 27
January 1967 by fire in the module during a test exercise - Retroactively,
the mission's name was officially changed to "Apollo 1" after the fire.
Although it was scheduled to be the fourth Apollo mission (and despite the
fact that NASA planned to call the mission AS-204), the flight patch worn by
the three astronauts, which was approved by NASA in June 1966, already
referred to the mission as "Apollo 1"
first flight of lunar module (LM); multiple space tests of LM, no command or
service module flown; no controlled reentry. Used the Saturn 1B originally
slated for the cancelled manned AS-204 ("Apollo 1") mission
severe oscillations during orbital insertion, several engines failing during
flight, successful reentry of command module (though mission parameters for
a 'worst case' reentry scenario could not be achieved)
ambitious mission profile (changed relatively shortly before launch), first
human lunar orbit (no lunar module), first earthrise seen by men and major
publicity success, some minor sleeping and illness issues
mission almost aborted after lightning struck at launch with brief loss of
fuel cells and telemetry; successful landing within walking distance (less
than 200 meters) of theSurveyor
3probe; two EVAs
early shutdown of inboard S-II engine; unrelated oxygen tank rupture in
service module during Earth-Moon transition caused mission to be aborted -
crew took temporary refuge in the lunar module and returned safely to Earth
after a single pass around the Moon.
docking problems, abort switch contamination and delayed landing radar
acquisition all threatened landing; first color video images from the Moon;
first materials science experiments in space; two EVAs
first longer (3 days) stay on Moon, first use of lunar rover to travel total
of 17.25 miles (27.76 km), more extensive geology investigations; 1 lunar
"standup" EVA, 3 lunar surface EVAs plus deep space EVA
malfunction in a backup yaw gimbal servo loop almost aborted landing (and
reduced stay duration in lunar orbit by one day for safety reasons); only
mission to target lunar highlands; malfunction prevented controlled ascent
stage impact after jettison; 3 lunar EVAs plus deep space EVA
last manned landing on the Moon, only mission with a scientist (geologist)
on board; this is also the latest manned moon landing and manned flight
beyond low Earth orbit; 3 lunar EVAs plus deep space EVA
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