Scroll down to read this post.


Please consider supporting my work, as I take no advertisements nor accept any sponsors in order to keep the website clean, easy to read, and to avoid any accusations of conflict of interest. Your support leaves me entirely independent, able to say whatever I think while being free from censorship or reprisals.


You can support me either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are five ways of doing so:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.

3. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:

5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Frank Borman, an old-fashioned American of the highest order, passes away at 95

Frank Borman, suited up just before the launch of Apollo 8 in 1968
Frank Borman, suited up just before
the launch of Apollo 8 in 1968

Frank Borman, who was the commander of both the Gemini 7 manned mission that proved that humans could live in weightlessness for two weeks as well as the Apollo 8 mission to the moon, the first human mission ever to another world, passed away on November 7, 2023 in Montana at the age of 95.

For a detailed obituary, go here. Though still survived by his crewmates on Apollo 8, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, his death ends that mission’s status as the last fully surviving crew of an Apollo mission.

My experience with Frank Borman was personal, as I interviewed him several times in writing Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8. In fact, he in many ways made the book possible. At the time I was still a relatively new science journalist, with no books to my credit. In trying to reach all three astronauts from Apollo 8, I did many web searches, and though I was able to locate the business numbers of Borman and Lovell, I found it impossible to locate contact information for Bill Anders.

Nonetheless, I started with Borman, and cold-called the car dealership he then owned in Corpus Cristi. When the phone was answered I was astonished to recognize the voice of Borman on the other end saying “How can I help you?” (Apparently it was lunch time, and Borman was holding the fort while his staff went out to eat.)

I immediately asked, “Is this commander Borman?” and got a very skeptical and suddenly doubtful “Yes” in reply. I realized immediately that Borman’s fame meant he was often harassed by fans in ways that could be annoying. I quickly explained who I was and that I wanted to write a history of the Apollo 8 mission, and to do so I wished to personally interview both him and his wife Susan. I explained that I strongly felt the story of the mission couldn’t be told properly without her perspective.

Borman asked me to mail him some clippings of my published magazine work, which he would read on a business flight planned the next week. I did so, and less than two days later he called me back, scheduling a visit for me shortly thereafter. He later told me that one of the things that convinced him to help me was my desire to include his wife’s perspective. No one had ever offered that previously. He thus didn’t need much time to review my clippings. As soon as they arrived he was sold.

At the end of that first interview, which lasted several hours, he asked me if I had my interviews scheduled with Jim and Marilyn Lovell and Bill and Valerie Anders. I said that the Jim Lovell interview was arranged, but I had not been able to locate Bill Anders. Borman immediately said he would arrange contact. Without that help Genesis could not have been written.

What struck anyone who ever met Borman was his utter honesty and charming forthrightness. He told you the exact truth, as he saw it, at all times. If you prevaricated with him he wouldn’t go ballistic on you, he would simply put you aside politely to find a better person to deal with. It was these personal characteristics that caused NASA to chose him as the astronaut’s representative in its investigation of the 1967 launchpad fire of Apollo 1 that killed Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chafee. The agency knew that Borman would tolerate no excuses, and would find out what went wrong, without mercy but without antagonizing anyone unnecessarily. It also knew that his presence would force utter honesty from everyone else, as everyone knew Borman would not tolerate anything else.

Though he spent most of the first half of his life in the military and NASA, he never worked for the government, he worked in the government. His goal was always to achieve success for the American people and the nation, not for himself and the government itself. As he explained to me when I asked him why he became an astronaut, he made it very clear his goal was to help win the Cold War against the Soviet Union, to demonstrate as Kennedy said, “that a free people could do it better.” Space exploration by itself was not that important to him, which was why he could so easily retire from NASA after Apollo 8. He considered the space race with the Soviet Union won after Apollo 8, with every later mission simply “frosting on the cake.”

This attitude also explained why he could so easily transition from a government employee to a businessman and the CEO of Eastern Airlines, which he ran for ten years. Then his goal was to make the company profitable, in any way he could. Though union problems eventually made that task impossible, Borman used his fame to sell the company, becoming one of the first corporate heads to do commercials for his company.

Earthrise, as photographyed by Bill Anders
Earthrise, as photographyed by Bill Anders

In all ways Borman was an old-fashioned honest American, working at a time where integrity and honesty were highly valued in American culture. That culture quickly recognized his value wherever he went, and would quickly enlist his skills and dedication to get whaever it needed done. It was for this reason that NASA officials trusted him with the command of Apollo 8, which everyone knew would be forced to orbit the Moon on Christmas eve, due to orbital mechanics. That timing would require the astronauts to make some approprate statement on one of the most important holidays of one of the world’s largest religions.

As Julian Scheer, NASA’s assistant administrator for public affairs, said to Borman, “We figure more people will be listening to your voice than that of any other man in history.” When Borman asked him for help, he bluntly added, “I think it would be inappropriate for NASA and particularly for a public affairs person to be putting words in your mouth. NASA will not tell you what to say.”

Borman’s effort to find the right words, with the help of many others, eventually led to the perfect choice, reading the first twelve verses of the Old Testament to the entire human race.

America’s greatness is sadly reduced with Borman’s passing. We can only pray that many others come forward to replace him, following in his honest footsteps to rebuild the America that without hesitation led the fight against tyranny for most of its history and then, to prove that a free people could do it better, took humanity to the Moon.

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


  • Ferris

    Rest in peace, Mr. Borman.

  • Bosco Bob


  • Phil Berardelli

    Excellent piece, Bob. Thanks for that. Diogenes would have been proud — of both of you.

  • Bosco Bob: It was supposed to be “prevaricated.” I have fixed. Thank you.

  • Richard M

    Thank you for this personal story about Colonel Borman, Robert.

    A lot of people say that Apollo 13 was NASA’s finest moment. Perhaps I am not in a position to say they are wrong. But Apollo 8 is surely at least NASA’s boldest moment. The risks they took on that mission, and the skill and sheer energy NASA’s people put into overcoming those risks . . . I simply cannot imagine the NASA of today even attempting it. Frank, Jim, and Bill understood all this, and they didn’t hesitate. They are heroes, and their names deserve to live.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Excellent memoriam for an excellent man.

  • wayne

    “Colonel Frank Borman”
    NASA film

  • Jeff Wright

    Ice water for blood–that one.

  • Ray Van Dune

    But this consummate professional never flew in space again?

  • Ray Van Dune: He retired from space travel after Apollo 8. I detail all the reasons in Genesis.

  • John P Eastman

    I’d love to hear more about your experiences. This story was Borman, but also about you… and your incounters and knowledge. Thank you. Very interesting. More, please.

  • Richard M

    But this consummate professional never flew in space again?

    Bob’s book deals with this well.

    I can only add that on everything he said publicly, Borman really did think that the Space Race was won with Apollo 8. No, he hadn’t landed or kicked up regolith. But he’d got to lunar orbit first. For him, the mission to beat the Soviets was accomplished. And he had given up enough of his life away from his family.

    And as we now know from what we have been able to uncover of the Soviet space program at that point, Borman’s sense was right. The state of the Soviet moon program was was such that they had at least a fighting (if super risky) chance of getting a circumlunar flight by decade’s end, but they were years away from even being able to attempt a landing. That is not to take away anything from what Neil and Buzz did – they had to land, and come back, to fulfill Kennedy’s promise. But Apollo 8 is what really put paid to the Soviets. That is Frank Borman’s achievement – and that of thousands of other brilliant and tireless NASA personnel.

  • Kevin Davis

    Was waiting for this, sir.

    Excellent tribute to an exemplar of an America that now seems to me all but lost.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    A model American and a great man. You will be missed, Mr. Borman

  • fr in sc

    The story of Apollo 8 is one more people should know about, especially as it relates to the tragedy of Apollo 1 and the triumph of 8’s successor missions, including 13; it was a Doolittle Raid in peacetime. It seems incomprehensible to think that the three of them could read the first twelve verses of Genesis to the world without permission from NASA and layers and layers of “sanitizers” passing judgment beforehand; I remember hearing it on TV as a kid of nine and it left everyone misty-eyed and quiet, a most wonderful Christmas present to the world from three very brave men.
    RIP Colonel Borman.

  • WMc

    I remember being 8 years old and watching the black and white tv
    and hearing Borman read from Genesis.

    Anybody know how I can get a paperback copy of Mr. Zimmerman’s book
    about Apollo 8? Thanks.

  • WMc: The paperback has been out of print for years. The hardback as well.

    I have been thinking about issuing new editions, but have been unsure of the demand. The response here might help me decide.

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *