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Christmas From Space: Apollo Astronaut Recreates Historic Broadcast

By Laura Dattaro
Published: December 23, 2013

For three men 45 years ago, Christmas Eve meant dinner in a tiny metal container 238,000 miles from home. For Frank Borman, Bill Anders and James Lovell, that Christmas Eve, 1968, was another night of mission Apollo 8, the first mission to orbit the moon, a mission when the first photo of Earth taken from space, dubbed “Earthrise,” was taken out a spaceship window.

This year, Lovell, who also served as a pilot in 1965’s Gemini 7 flight and commander of 1970’s infamous Apollo 13, today (Dec. 23) recreated the Christmas ’68 broadcast at Chicago’s Museum of Science Industry, which houses the original Apollo 8 command module. The event was hosted by the office of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and featured Lovell, two local high students and the father of the one of the students.

Jim Lovell in 1970 as he trained for Apollo 13, two years after the historic Earthrise photo and Christmas Eve broadcast from lunar orbit. (NASA)

During the original broadcast, the three astronauts read from the bible’s book of Genesis, from the passage that stated, “God said, 'Let there be light' and there was light.” Each of the men read a portion of the passage, adding, “From the crew of Apollo 8 we close with good night, good luck, a merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

The original broadcast can be heard at about 11:38 in this file of highlights from the Apollo 8 mission.

Last week, NASA released a video recreation (above) of the historic moment when the three astronauts first saw Earth through their window and scrambled to take a picture. The video uses new data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the astronauts’ original pictures from the mission to visually reproduce exactly what the three men saw as Earth appeared in their view. It also features the sounds from the on-board tape recorder, which captured the astronauts’ conversation during the event.

“Aw, that’s a beautiful shot,” Lovell says when he sees Earth. Beautiful, indeed — the resulting image graced the covers of both TIME’s Great Images of the 20th Century and LIFE’s 100 Photographs That Changed the World.

MORE: Beautiful Satellite Images Show Earth From Space

Uluru/Ayers Rock in the Australian outback is featured in this image from the Kompsat-2 satellite. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s Kompsat-2 satellite acquired this image on Sept. 15, 2011. (KARI/ESA)


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