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December 23, 2013 - In the Beginning...

In the Beginning... The Apollo 8 mission was originally intended to be an Earth-orbital test of the Lunar Module, and the first lunar-orbital flight was not scheduled until later. But production delays with the LM and growing confidence in the new Saturn V booster gave flight planners a reason to juggle the mission schedule and send Apollo 8 into lunar orbit. The risky decision—it was only the third flight of the Saturn V—paid off and accelerated the pace of the Apollo program. When Apollo 8 arrived in lunar orbit forty-five years ago this week, one billion people watched or listened to the crew’s Christmas Eve broadcast, during which they took turns reading passages from the Book of Genesis as the stark lunar landscape unfolded below them. The prominent feature in this lunar farside image is the crater Doppler.

Image credit: NASA

Weekly Calendar

December 23-29, 2013

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

Moon phase Monday 23

Ursid meteor shower

1672: Giovanni Cassini discovers Saturn’s moon Rhea

Moon phase Tuesday 24

1968: Apollo 8 enters lunar orbit
1978: Venera 11 lands on Venus
1979: European Space Agency launches first Ariane rocket

Moon phase Wednesday 25

Christmas Day

Last Quarter Moon 8:48 AM ET
Mars 5° north of Moon

1642: Isaac Newton born
2003: Mars Express and Beagle 2 arrive at Mars
2004: Huygens probe separates from Cassini spacecraft

Moon phase Thursday 26

Boxing Day (Canada, U.K., Australia)
First Day of Kwanzaa

Spica 1.1° south of Moon

Moon phase Friday 27

1571: Johannes Kepler born
1984: Meteorite ALH 84001 discovered

Moon phase Saturday 28

Saturn 0.9° north of Moon

1882: Arthur Eddington born

Moon phase Sunday 29

Mercury in superior conjunction

1980: STS-1 leaves Vehicle Assembly Building and rolls out to launch pad

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.