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It was on this date in 1968 that Apollo 8 became the first mission to orbit the moon in a manned spacecraft. The mission started on 21st December 1968 at 12:51:00 UTC and lasted 6 days, 3 hours, 42 minutes as the three-astronaut crew — Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit, the first to see Earth as a whole planet, the first to directly see the far side of the Moon, and then the first to witness Earthrise.
The mission, the third flight of the Saturn V rocket and that rocket’s first manned launch, was also the first human spaceflight launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Apollo 8 took three days to travel to the Moon and orbited ten times over the course of 20 hours, during which the crew made a Christmas Eve television broadcast where they read the first 10 verses from the Book of Genesis. At the time, the broadcast was the most watched TV program ever and Apollo 8’s successful mission paved the way for Apollo 11 to fulfill U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s. The Apollo 8 astronauts returned to Earth on December 27, 1968, when their spacecraft splashed down in the Northern Pacific Ocean. The crew was then named Time magazine’s “Men of the Year” for 1968 upon their return.
To mark man’s journey to space Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has introduced “Holidays in Space,” a high-tech holiday celebration featuring the “Spirit of Exploration,” a one-of-a-kind presentation of space and holiday imagery shown on the side of a 223-foot-long Saturn 1B rocket in the visitor complex’s Rocket Garden, and an all-new “Rocket Garden Holiday Light Show.
With 223-feet of rocket as the “screen” and multi-projector capability, multiple images and videos can be shown simultaneously or one single, powerful image can be projected during “Spirit of Exploration.” A dramatic musical score, actual launch audio and other sound effects, in conjunction with the all new “Rocket Garden Light Show” that uses moveable lights to illuminate rockets throughout the Rocket Garden, complete the immersive sensory experience.
“Spirit of Exploration” takes guests on a journey through NASA’s history and plans for the future. The dynamic presentation features custom animation blended with historic footage of actual launches and awe-inspiring views of Earth to create a completely unique outdoor cinematic experience, complete with stadium-style seating.
The new “Rocket Garden Holiday Light Show” will accompany and compliment “Spirit of Exploration,” as waves of synchronized dancing lights illuminate the iconic Rocket Garden.
In addition, the visitor complex is adorned for the holiday season with a stunning array of decorations including a 41-foot holiday tree decorated with lights and flags of the countries that helped build the International Space Station, a giant NASA “meatball” ornament, garlands, lights, ribbons, bows and more. New this year is the Holidays in Space logo and snowflake images projected onto the roof of the IMAX theater.
Holidays in Space is now open to the public and continues through Jan. 3. More information can be found at the following website. https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/events/2015/december/event-holiday-in-space.aspx
Here’s a video preview…