Apollo 8 and Christmas 1968

My father died 7 Decembers ago.  My mother died 18 months ago. I always remember them on certain anniversaries or those first years in “el exilio.”.

On Christmas Eve 1968, our family went to the midnight mass. By the way, very few parishes actually celebrate mass at midnight anymore.  Our church today celebrates mass at 9 p.m.!

Nevertheless, it was a rather remarkable ride from church. It took me a while to realize that I was hearing three men reading the Good Book from a spaceship circling the moon. It was one of those moments that I will never forget.   

Years ago, families actually sat around to watch the NASA missions. In our household, it was a lot of fun to gather around the TV and enjoy an Apollo rocket going into space.  My favorite part was hearing my father say that he would have never believed it when he was growing up.  My mother would usually compliment the U.S., with the Cuban version of “what a country”.

The Apollo 8 mission accomplished some rather big objectives:  

The six-day mission was a roaring success, orbiting the moon 10 times and testing out the “trans-lunar injection” system and other electronic networks that would allow future missions to land on the moon over the next three years. Anders’ iconic photo (known as the “Earthrise” image) of a partially shaded bright blue Earth graced a U.S. stamp and is credited in part with being a catalyst for the environmental movement. The astronauts were feted with a ticker-tape parade in New York City.

The mission gradually lost a measure of prominence after Apollo 11 carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the lunar surface the following year. Other missions also grabbed the public’s attention, including the Apollo 13 mission Lovell commanded in 1970 that failed and became the subject of a Hollywood movie. 

The Apollo 8 crew was Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders.. They became the first humans to see the far side of the Moon.   I recall my father talking about all of those science-fiction comic books in Cuba about the unknown on the dark side of the moon.

Who wasn’t stunned to see that picture of the earth floating is space on the cover of the weekly magazines? It certainly put living in our good earth in a little different perspective.

Who knows when we will send men to another world again? I was fortunate to see it!

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