Fifty years ago, in December 1968, NASA launched the first manned mission to orbit the moon. No one, not even the astronauts aboard, were certain that they’d be able to return safely. Their journey, the most hazardous and dangerous ever embarked upon, took them to the boundaries of another world, and, even more remarkably, brought peace to their own.
For it was shortly after 5:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve that something remarkable happened. After spotting the barren, far side of the moon for the first time, the astronauts onboard captured a photo that has since become known as “Earthrise”. For all the turmoil, tragedy, and political tumult the world had experienced during 1968, this iconic, indellible image captured the beauty and fragility of our home planet.
And then, with more than one billion people watching around the world on television, the astronauts delivered a message to the largest audience in history. It was a sentiment for all humankind and one straight from the pages of the Bible. As the nation waited in prayerful consideration, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders spoke the following words:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:1-10 KJV
Less than a day later, in the wee hours of Christmas morning 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 began its long journey home, one that covered 250,000 miles, making it the world’s longest holiday trip. Apollo 8’s mission certainly proved that man could make it to the moon, but more importantly it demonstrates the vastness of our universe and the mightiness of our God.
In the coming week, we celebrate the 50 year anniversary of Apollo 8’s mission to the moon’s orbit, a voyage that changed how we view our planet forever.
Share your memories of this historic event or your hopes for the new year in the comments below. May God richly bless you.