National Archives Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Apollo 8 Mission
Press Release · Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Washington, DC

The National Archives celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first manned spaceflight to leave the Earth’s orbit with a special multimedia display of ​excerpts from the Apollo 8 Mission telecast on December 24, 1968, and two short documentary film screenings at noon on December 5.

Explore our holdings to discover the fascinating story of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s creation and the story of space exploration.

The program and display are free and open to the public and will be held in the William G. McGowan Theater and the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC. Attendees for the screenings should use the Special Events entrance on Constitution Avenue at 7th Street, NW. Metro accessible on the Yellow and Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter station. Reservations are recommended and can be made online. For those without reservations, seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The theater doors will open 45 minutes prior to the start of the program. Late seating will not be permitted 20 minutes after the program begins.

November 29, 2018 – January 1, 2019
National Archives Museum, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

East Rotunda Gallery
Watch telecast footage of the 1968 Apollo 8 mission, the first manned spacecraft to reach the Moon and safely return. This multimedia presentation features photos of the Moon’s surface taken from the spacecraft and an audio recording of the astronauts’ description of the lunar surface.

DOCUMENTARY SCREENING: Earthrise and Debrief: Apollo 8
Wednesday, December 5, at noon

William G. McGowan Theater
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the flight of Apollo 8, the first manned spaceflight to leave the Earth’s orbit, two short documentary films will be screened. Earthrise (2018; 30 minutes) tells the story of the first images of Earth taken from space in 1968. Told solely by the Apollo 8 astronauts, the film recounts their experiences and explores the beauty of Earth against the blackness of space. Debrief: Apollo 8 (1969; 30 minutes) was produced by NASA after the historic mission and is narrated by Burgess Meredith.

The Apollo 8 Mission telecast
In a mad rush to outrace a reported Soviet manned lunar mission, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) blasted three men into space on December 21, 1968—Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders. The report turned out to be false, but the risky mission was a success. The  Apollo 8 spacecraft safely delivered the world’s first humans into lunar orbit and back to planet Earth. On December 24, 1968, half a billion people around the globe tuned in to the astronauts’ broadcast as they orbited the Moon.  

Apollo 8 crew: “This is Apollo 8 coming to you live from the Moon. We’ve had to switch the TV camera now. We showed you first a view of Earth as we’ve been watching it for the past 16 hours. Now we’re switching so that we can show you the Moon that we’ve been flying over at 60 miles altitude for the last 16 hours. Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and myself have spent the day before Christmas up here doing experiments, taking pictures, and firing our
spacecraft engines to maneuver around. What we’ll do now is follow the trail that we’ve been following all day and take you on through to a lunar sunset. . . . The horizon here is very, very stark. The sky is pitch black, and the Earth—or the Moon rather, excuse me—is quite light. And the contrast between the sky and the Moon is a vivid dark line. . . . Actually, I think the best way to describe this area is a vastness of black and white, absolutely no color.
The sky up here is also a rather forbidding—foreboding expanse of blackness with no stars visible when we’re flying over the Moon in daylight.”


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This page was last reviewed on December 4, 2018.
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