War in space

Apollo 7 blasted into orbit on a Saturn IB launcher on 11 October 1968. It was to be a stressful mission for everyone involved - both in orbit and at mission control. Although the spacecraft itself worked without any major problems, the crew suffered during their orbital confinement. The stress of giving Apollo a thorough "shakedown" was bad enough, but much of the mission was to be broadcast on live television. Schirra came down with a cold soon after launch, and as it spread to his crewmates, all three became irritable. They insisted that they should be allowed to get on with the real work of the mission

EN ROUTE TO THE MOON

After the cramped conditions of Mercury and Gemini, which saw the astronauts essentially confined to their seats, the Apollo CSM was relatively spacious. Here, Frank Borman enjoys floating free in zero gravity.

EN ROUTE TO THE MOON

After the cramped conditions of Mercury and Gemini, which saw the astronauts essentially confined to their seats, the Apollo CSM was relatively spacious. Here, Frank Borman enjoys floating free in zero gravity.

still needed ahead of a first landing attempt, and the ever-present risk of a problem that might require the insertion of a repeat flight into the schedule, Apollo would run very close to its deadline with three such crucial missions in one year.

Then there were the Soviets: no one knew the state of the rival lunar programme, but everyone assumed that it was more advanced than the reality. The unmanned Zond 5 had circled the Moon and returned to Earth weeks before Apollo 7's launch. Given that the CIA was also reporting a Soyuz spacecraft would soon link up with a group of fuel tankers in Earth orbit, it was starting to look like the Soviets were on the verge of a lunar mission involving an Earth-orbit rendezvous (EOR).

And so NASA decided that Apollo 8 would go around the Moon at Christmas 1968. It would beat the Soviets to another first and help to reveal any problems in the Command Module that might affect

BIOGRAPHY

FRANK BORMAN

Born in Indiana but raised in Arizona, Frank Borman (b.1928) began flying as a teenager. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1950 and served as a fighter and test pilot — in the US Air Force before joining NASA in 1962. After flying on the Gemini 7 mission in 1965, he sat on the investigation board following the Apollo 1 fire, and then took command of Apollo 8. After leaving NASA and the USAF in 1970, he built a second career in the airline business, retiring in 1986 to enjoy his hobby of restoring and flying vintage aircraft.

AROUND THE FAR SIDE

The Apollo 8 crew (below) returned with the most detailed images yet from the lunar far side, including the spectacular Earthrise (above) and the dark-floored crater Tsiolkovskii (left).

the later LM lunar-orbit rehearsal. When it blasted off on 21 December, with a crew of Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, Apollo 8 was also the first manned Saturn V launch. Fortunately for NASA, it was an almost flawless mission, its effect on the watching world almost as great as Armstrong and Aldrin's first steps on the Moon would be a few months later. With everything going well, the crew were given the go-ahead for the crucial engine burn that would put them into lunar orbit less than three days after leaving Earth. The burn had to take place over the Moon's far side, out of contact with Earth, and there was tension at Mission Control until the craft emerged, intact and in orbit, from its radio silence.

That Christmas, the astronauts became the first people to see Earthrise over the Moon, and to take in our fragile planet's isolation in space. The images they sent back were iconic, and matched with equally stirring words as they read the opening lines from the Bible's Book of Genesis - "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth ..." - before wishing a Merry Christmas to the entire world.

AROUND THE FAR SIDE

The Apollo 8 crew (below) returned with the most detailed images yet from the lunar far side, including the spectacular Earthrise (above) and the dark-floored crater Tsiolkovskii (left).

SPIDER ABOVE THE EARTH

During day five of the Apollo 9 mission, McDivitt and Schweickart boarded the LM and practised separation and flying manoeuvres in Earth orbit. David Scott watched from the CSM and took this picture of the LM hanging above the horizon. It shows the legs in their unfolded position and the rarely seen surface probes extending out from each of the foot pods.

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