Eight – Our First Journey to the Moon

By Henry Larson, Fairview High School - CO

On the morning of December 21st, 1968, three astronauts launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida. The tremendous power of their Saturn V rocket pushed them out of Earth’s atmosphere and into the black of space.

If this mission succeeded, they would be the first humans to ever orbit the moon. But they had a dangerous mission. This would be the first crewed mission NASA ever sent to the moon, the first time much of their equipment had been tested in space, and the first time any astronaut had left Earth’s orbit. Even the commander of their mission gave them 50/50 odds of survival.

The Civils Rights movement and Vietnam War overshadowed the race to the moon. It was a dark time for the American people, who looked for something, or someone, to help bring them together.

Apollo astronauts needed a rocket more powerful than any nation had built before, ways of communicating with Earth further than any radio signal had ever transmitted a human voice, and a way of landing on a surface no person had ever stepped on before.

NASA built the Saturn V rocket, which was the most powerful rocket of it’s time for the Apollo program. That rocket would launch Apollo astronauts into orbit and on a course to the moon. Inside each rocket was a command module and a landing module, which would dock with each other during the trip. Once the modules entered the moon’s sphere of influence, or the point where the gravity of the moon was more powerful then that of Earth’s, the command module would fire its engine to orbit the moon.

Some might say that Apollo 8’s mission was forgettable, that the whole journey to the moon was a waste of taxpayer money and effort. However, it’s impact on the future of space exploration and humanity is irrefutable. Apollo 8 paved the way for a new era of science and understanding.In the midst of a year fraught with horrors, injustice and conflict, this mission brought the world together, and gave people something to hope for.

The eyes of the world were watching Apollo 8. This is their story.

This story was originally published on The Royal Banner on December 28, 2019.