Today in history... Man's first broadcast from space

Over Christmas, most television audiences make do with the Queen's speech or another repeat of The Great Escape. But in the US, on Christmas Eve, 1968, viewers were watching something a bit different…

On television screens across the nation, the three-man crew of Apollo 8 - Frank Borman, James Lovell (later of Apollo 13 fame) and William Anders - were reading passages from the book of Genesis.

Behind them hovered a grainy black and white globe in the distant background: planet Earth.

That Christmas Eve, audiences were watching the first live television broadcast from outer space, by the first human beings ever to escape Earth's gravitational pull and orbit the Moon.

Apollo 8's Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders
Apollo 8's James Lovell, William Anders and Frank Borman, in 1968

In 1968, it the most watched television broadcast of all time.

Incredibly, Apollo 8 was only the second manned mission of the Apollo space program.

It took them three days to travel to the Moon. While in orbit, they became the first human beings to see the dark side of the Moon with their own eyes.

Having completed 10 orbits and notched-up six full days in outer space, Apollo 8's crew landed safely back on Earth on December 27.

Their mission had been a success - and major breakthrough, for President John F Kennedy's political goal, to land an American on the Moon by the end of the decade, could now be realised.

Of course, that would be achieved the following year - a fate entwined with the destiny of one of Apollo 8's back-up crew, a respected NASA recruit and Korean War veteran named Neil Alden Armstrong.


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