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Apollo 8



This spacecraft was the first of the Apollo series to successfully orbit the moon, and the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth's gravity and reach the Moon. The mission achieved operational experience and tested the Apollo command module systems, including communications, tracking, and life-support, in cis-lunar 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. Additionally, six live television transmission sessions were done by the crew during the mission, including the famous Christmas Eve broadcast in which the astronauts read from the book of Genesis. All systems operated within allowable parameters and all objectives of the mission were achieved. The flight carried a three man crew: Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James A. Lovell, Jr., and Lunar Module Pilot William A. Anders.

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 kg is the mass of the CSM 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 (9027 kg) to a Lunar Module was mounted in the spacecraft/launch vehicle adapter as ballast for mass loading purposes.

The spacecraft was launched on December 21, 1968 at 12:51:00 UT (7:51 a.m. EST), and was placed in a 190.6 km x 183.2 km Earth parking orbit with a period of 88.2 minutes and an inclination of 32.51 degrees. At 15:41:37 UT a third-stage burn injected the Apollo spacecraft into translunar trajectory. Orbit insertion took place on 24 December at 09:59:20 UT into an elliptical 310.6 km by 111.2 km lunar orbit. Two orbits later a second burn placed Apollo 8 into a near-circular 110.4 by 112.3 km orbit for eight orbits. The transearth injection burn took place on 25 December at 06:10:16 UT after a total of 10 lunar orbits.

Apollo 8 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on 27 December 1968 at 15:51:42 UT (10:51:42 a.m. EST) after a mission elapsed time of 147 hrs, 0 mins, 42 secs. The splashdown point was 8 deg 7.5 min N, 165 deg 1.2 min W, 1,000 miles SSW of Hawaii and 5 km (3 mi) from the recovery ship USS Yorktown. The Apollo 8 Command Module is on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois.

The Apollo program included a large number of uncrewed test missions and 12 crewed missions: three Earth orbiting missions (Apollo 7, 9 and Apollo-Soyuz), two lunar orbiting missions (Apollo 8 and 10), a lunar swingby (Apollo 13), and six Moon landing missions (Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17). Two astronauts from each of these six missions walked on the Moon (Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, Charles Conrad, Alan Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, David Scott, James Irwin, John Young, Charles Duke, Gene Cernan, and Harrison Schmitt), the only humans to have set foot on another solar system body. Total funding for the Apollo program was approximately $20,443,600,000.

Alternate Names

  • 03626
  • Apollo8
  • PL-684M

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1968-12-21
Launch Vehicle: Saturn 5
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 28817 kg

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Manned Space Flight (United States)


  • Planetary Science
  • Human Crew

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail

Selected References

  • Sasser, J. H., Apollo 08 Lunar and Space Science Activities, NASA-MSC, Unnumbered, Jan. 1969.
  • Apollo 08 Mission Report, NASA-MSC, TM-X-66369, Houston, TX, Feb. 1969.

Other Sources of Apollo 8 Information at NSSDCA

The Apollo 8 Christmas Eve Broadcast
Apollo 8 Page

Other Sources of Apollo Information at NSSDCA

Apollo Page
Lunar Science Page

Related Information at NSSDCA

Moon Page

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