Like most astronauts in the 1960s, the Apollo 8 crew members were Cold War warriors. Their mission was to fly to the moon, scout landing sites and return safely to Earth.
But on Dec. 24, 1968, as Apollo 8 completed its third orbit around the moon, James Lovell Jr., Frank Borman and William Anders saw something that made the mission more than another battle to prevail over the Soviet Union.
They saw the Earth, emerging from the lunar horizon as their spacecraft flew 69 miles above a dead, monochromatic moonscape.
“The Earth was the only thing in the universe that had any color,” said Borman, now 80. “It was a long way away.”
The sight was one of the few uplifting moments in a year pummeled by war, assassinations and civil unrest.
The three men were nearly a quarter million miles from home – the farthest anyone had yet ventured. Their mission would clear the way for Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin to land on the moon seven months later.
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