Apollo 8 40th Anniversary Recap with Video
40 years ago on December 21st, 1968, Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Jim Lovell, strapped in an Apollo capsule sitting on top of a Saturn V rocket, blasted off into space and headed towards the moon for the first time in human history. During their voyage the became the first people to see the far side of the moon with their own eyes and they took one of the most famous photos of all time, the Earthrise.
Forty years later, Bill Anders approached the the San Diego Air & Space Museum to host a 40th anniversary event. We could not have said yes fast enough. A lot of planning and a few months later and the astronauts began to descend upon the museum.
On the morning of December 11th, 2008, the Apollo 8 astronauts started off the anniversary event by coming to the museum to do interviews with local and national media outlets. (The NBC Nightly News footage will be on Friday, December 19th, or Monday, December 22nd) A few other astronauts and NASA folks (Walt Cunningham, Alan Bean, Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Gerry Griffin, and Glynn Lunney) also visited the museum for some fellowship and a brief tour of the museum given by long time docent Harry “Snake” Houghton, a former Navy pilot. Of course the highlight of the tour was when all the astronauts roamed the bridge of the USS Enterprise in our Star Trek exhibit. They seemed a little uncomfortable with all the room the bridge provided. It seemed like they thought space travel should be a little more cramped!
Later that evening, they all returned, this time in suits (not space suits). The astronauts, NASA folks, and their families congregated in our “green room” (board room) while hundreds of people waited in the museum for a chance to meet these legends. Once downstairs the waiting people swarmed the astronauts, especially Armstrong, hoping for a picture and a handshake, preferably at the same time.
After an hour, everyone headed into the pavilion for some dinner and to watch the presentations. First the museum and Ford Motor Company Fund awarded the winners of the Green Ideas for Life competition with scholarships and pictures with the Apollo 8 crew.
Then Glynn Lunney, former NASA flight director, talked about the importance of the Apollo 8 mission. After Lunney left the stage the Apollo 8 astronauts came up and began talking about their recollections of the mission recalling how the famous Earthrise picture was taken and the impact it has had, how they feel NASA is doing now, whether or not Frank Borman has seen a UFO, and other various things. After the three finished chiding each other, Neil Armstrong took the stage to thank the three astronauts for the work they did that allowed his flight, Apollo 11, to land on the moon.
Once Armstrong finished, all of the people involved with NASA and the space programs came up on the stage for a standing ovation and an end to a great evening.
That evening we had a lot of legendary people and their families in our museum. Here is a list of some of those people:
- The Apollo 8 crew of Borman, Lovell and Anders, their wives, children, and many other family members.
- Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Alan Bean, Gene Cernan and Walt Cunningham
- Dale Myers, former NASA Deputy Administrator
- Glynn Lunney, NASA flight director during the Gemini and Apollo era
- Gerry Griffin, NASA flight director and former director of JSC
- Gene Kranz, NASA flight director and mission operations director
- Jan Evans – widow of Ron Evans
- Jo and Suzy Schirra – widow and daughter of Wally Schirra
- Ingeborg Ehricke – widow of Krafft Ehricke, rocket pioneer
- Dick Gillan – Apollo engineer
- Chuck Friedlander – who directed the astronaut support office at Kennedy Space Center in the Apollo era
- Bob Cardenas – legendary test pilot
- Bob Hoover – ditto!
- Steve Pisanos -legendary aviator
This was an historic event and sadly many people were not able to attend because it sold out. So we have edited some video taken during the day to give you a behind the scenes look (for the High Definition version click here):