A Christmas Miracle

Apollo 8 patch

Apollo 8 Patch

In this holiday season, we all remember Christmases past—the best present ever received or the most perfect gift ever given. In 1968, a miracle happened that made it my most memorable.

In 1968, President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade and returning him home safely seemed unachievable. The U.S. space program was recovering from that terrible 1967 Apollo 1 fire which had taken the lives of three astronauts on the launch pad. In October of 1968, the second flight of the program, Apollo 7, had circled the Earth and tried out some of the moon landing equipment. A lunar flight seemed far, far away.

In an ambitious move, NASA decided to take a giant leap and send Apollo 8 around the moon. It would be the first launch of the huge Saturn 5 rocket, the first time humans had ventured outside the pull of Earth’s gravity, and the first time humans would view the “dark” side of the moon. If successful, it would be miraculous.

Earthrise from Apollo 8

Earthrise from Apollo 8

On the day before Christmas, Apollo 8 sped into lunar orbit. As the spacecraft passed around the gray, rocky landscape, there…above the moon’s barren horizon…was our home planet lit by the sun. For the first time in our existence, we humans were awestruck by Earthrise, seeing that tiny blue marble in the vast blackness of space. Those astronauts were three men in a cramped little capsule with the rest of mankind on that distant speck in the sky.

Then three voices came to us from farther away than any other humans had ever journeyed, strong and clear, as they read from the Book of Genesis:

Bill Anders: “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.”

Jim Lovell: “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.”

Frank Borman: “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 the Seas: and God saw that it was good.

And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close, with good night… and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I thought about Apollo 8 and its societal importance while I was standing on the NASA Causeway at KSC two weeks ago. The night before Orion was scheduled to launch, I looked at the list of topics that were popular on Twitter, and it was pretty depressing — dominated by multiple stories of police controversy and civil unrest. And then, the next morning and for a couple of days, #Orion dominated social media. With Apollo 8, NASA reminded us as a nation and as a world who we are, who we can be, and it was so encouraging to see spaceflight playing that role once again.

  2. as usual the article was great!! I hope you get this message. Merry Christmas to you and yours.


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