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Celebrate Earthrise Day!

In only a little less than three months we will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the December 1968 flight of Apollo 8 — first manned mission to another world. During that mission three humans spent 20 hours in orbit around the Moon, during which they read the first twelve verses of the Old Testament on Christmas Eve and became the first humans to witness an Earthrise and to photograph it.

To celebrate that achievement, a new website has been created, dubbed Celebrate Earthrise Day.

The website provides some great background material. You can listen to the astronaut’s Christmas telecast as well as see a recreation of the moment when the astronauts saw that Earthrise and Bill Anders took his famous color photo. The site also includes many photos from before, during, and after the mission, with many pictures coming from the personal family pictures of the astronauts. There is also audio of an 1988 Bill Anders’ interview, as well as a video of a fascinating presentation made by Bill and Valerie Anders, describing their life journey leading up to Apollo 8 and afterward.

Finally, and I think of most interest to my readers here, the site includes the audio of my introduction from the new audio edition of my book, Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8.

The site also includes the audio of one of the best radio interviews I have ever done, broadcast in 1998, on the subject of Apollo 8, our American culture, and the importance of each person choosing their path in life wisely. You can find that audio at the bottom of this webpage.

Check it all out. I think you will find it worth your while.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Don M

    When I saw that date, “December 1968 flight of Apollo 8”, I was reminded of January 1968, when I had the privilege of being on a tour of Cape Canaveral. We were able to enter the Vehicle Assembly Bldg., up the elevator, and out along the cat-walk around the side of that huge Saturn.V rocket. Being lass than a meter from the edge of that huge flag painted on the side was very awesome.

    I have always wondered which Apollo was powered by the Saturn.V that I saw. Maybe Apollo 8 ? Tho, ten months seems a bit long.

  • Don M: In January 1968 the VAB probably had two rockets inside, a Saturn 1B used on January 22 to give the Lunar Module its first orbital test, and a Saturn 5 flown unmanned on April 4 for the second unmanned test flight. Another Saturn 1B flew the first Apollo manned mission, Apollo 7, in October.

    Thus, I doubt seriously that the rocket you saw was the Saturn 5 that launched Apollo 8.

  • Michael

    From the end of the war to the first lunar landing was about 24 years.

    The time from the last lunar landing until the present day is about 46 years.

  • Edward

    Don M,

    On April 4, 1968, the Apollo 6 test flight was launched.

    Unless there was a second Saturn V in the Vertical Assembly Building (later renamed Vehicle Assembly Building) at the time, you saw the Apollo 6 test vehicle. Although not as famous, it taught the engineers a thing or two, making the Apollo 8 flight safer.

    Apollo 7, launched in October, used a Saturn 1B launch vehicle.

    Congratulations on being so close to one of those wondrous rockets.

  • wayne

    How many orbit’s, does 20 hours equal?

    Cool site. Downloading the (1998) radio interview right now. Is that uploaded anywhere else? Never came across it at YouTube.

    I was fortunate enough to have watched the launch of Apollo 8 = extremely exciting!
    I’m going to have to dig up a December ’68 calendar–
    – I think my brother and I got out school a day early for Christmas vacation, –massive snow storm in Michigan, we left at 5am (4 hours to south Detroit then I-75 all the way down. Didn’t stop snowing until we hit Indiana. My Mom & Dad took turns driving the station wagon [mom drove Indiana- it’s flat, dad drove the mountains] (with a fresh Christmas tree strapped to the roof + camper in-tow) straight to a campground outside of Tampa.
    Basically only stopped for gas or a Stuckey’s for food and souvenirs . I want to say it took us about 34 hours. (Speed limit was 75 then) (My record is 28 hours by car, Grand Rapids, Mi to Tampa, lived there for a year in the ’80’s. Going through Atlanta before they finished the by-pass was always a mess.)
    Distinctly remember the free Coca-Cola at the Georgia welcome station and the free orange juice at the Florida welcome station.

    Camped in Tampa- day of the launch we left for Cape Kennedy at 5am., we just followed everyone else. (Was the launch around 8am?) Wound up in swampy area, built up with gravel, 2-3 (?) miles away. It was very sunny and clear, and everyone had their radio’s on and their camera’s ready. Then, 4,3,2,1… pause…..cheering of the crowd and then loud rumble sounds rolling in. Slow climb at first then it went faster & faster until it disappeared. Happened very quickly.

    My Dad was clicking off pictures and my mom had an 8mm silent box camera. (have all the slides in the house somewhere, the 8mm film remains missing in action, only saw it once after it was developed.)
    Can’t recall if we took the Tour that day, or came back the next day. Tour was a thrill unto itself. Fast-forward to Christmas Eve– we’re in a campground in Key West, watching the astronaut’s on a portable TV. (very cold that night, around 45-50 and very windy off the ocean.)

    anyway… it was very exciting, and I’ll never forget it!
    (I can’t believe, I’m as old as I am right now.)

  • wayne

    cool story!

    great factoid! (sad, but interesting)

    great factoids as well!

  • Bob: The early Saturn 1B were not stacked in the VAB. They were stacked out at the pad, LC34 and LC37B.

    Don M: In January 1968 there were two Saturn 5 at the Cape. It appears that SA-502 for Apollo 6 had already rolled out to LC39A ready for launch in April. SA-503 for Apollo 8 was in the process of being stacked in the VAB, and stacking was complete in February. So I think you were standing next to Apollo 8.

    Much more info here and in Roger Bilstein’s excellent book “Stages to Saturn”.

  • Don M: Hmmm… after further review, perhaps that wasn’t Apollo 8 after all! See this picture which shows the first stage being stacked February 1. So maybe you saw SA-502 for Apollo 6 in the VAB.

  • wayne

    Mr. Z.,
    so, which orientation for the earthrise picture is correct, your book or the picture we always see? You’ve talked about that before (on Batchelor or the Space Show) if I recall correctly.

    interesting factoids!

  • Col Beausabre

    It ain’t an official holiday until Hallmark makes a card for it !

  • wayne

    Col Beausabre;

    Not Hallmark, but this is pretty cool:

    Apollo 8: USS Yorktown Christmas card

  • Wayne: The slides and 8mm film would possibly have some historical value. I personally would be interested in seeing them, as they would give one the perspective of an uninvolved viewer of the launch.

  • Wayne: As far as the photographer is concerned (astronaut Bill Anders), the orientation in my book, and on his wall. As I wrote in Genesis, he saw the Earth as just another object in space, as was the Apollo capsule and the Moon, and he saw it coming out from the side of the Moon.

  • wayne

    Mr. Z.,
    That’s what I thought– reference picture orientation.

    -Now that I have more time, I’ll try to locate the slides. They should be in one of the dozens of “Airequipt” slide-changer cartridges we have. I showed them in science-class in ’69, roughly 10-20 shots taken in rapid sequence of the launch itself + we took the facility Tour. (I’ll drop you line if I can locate them.)
    The 8mm film is/was, like’ a 2-3 minute silent sequence, but as I mentioned, “missing in action” somewhere (hopefully in the house) never saw it projected, just on one of those table-top film editor/viewers.
    (tangentially–also have some excellent, giant, prints of the Eclipse in Baja from 1991.)

  • Dave Hollick

    Bob, I remember when Genesis was in the editing phase, just before it was released, we were talking about the “earthrise” photograph, and you said that Anders did not see it as the earth rising, but rather as coming out from behind the moon. Hence, the sideways version is the correct orientation. You were excited to be the first to show it that way.

  • Dave Hollick: I hope you are enjoying the retired life. (I only find out what’s happening these days when Diane tells me what she sees on Facebook.)

    The invitation to visit Arizona remains open, forever.

  • wayne

    This is very well put together:

    Apollo 8 Launch –
    USA Radio feed synced with film

  • wayne

    “Apollo 8 Full Mission”
    42 videos (!); audio + actual film + accurate animation

    -extremely well researched & put together. “Earthrise” is video #23.

  • wayne

    “What Do You Feel Like Doin’ Tonight?”

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