NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)
28th December, 1968 : After a six-day flight that included ten orbits of the moon, the American Apollo 8 spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific yesterday, only 5,000 yards from the recovery ship. The crew – Frank Bormann, James A Lowell and William Anders – “look great and are very happy” according to the Apollo flight surgeon Dr Charles Berry. The flight went according to plan. The launch of the giant Saturn V rocket was on time, putting Apollo into the earth orbit. There the final stage of the launcher was reignited to put the spacecraft on course for the moon. After a journey of a quarter of a million miles Apollo’s own engines were fired to slow it down, allowing it to enter the moon’s gravity.
In a moment of high tension, communications were lost as Apollo disappeared behind the moon. Later, after the astronauts had read from the Bible on Christmas Eve, Apollo’s engines were fired again to put it on an earth trajectory, heading for the 35-mile wide window for re-entry. The flight was a “giant step,” said the Apollo programme director, General Sam Phillips.