39 years ago this evening, December 24, 1968, three intrepid Americans, jammed into a capsule slightly larger than a telephone booth, made history. Having traveled farther from their natural home, than anyone in history, their Apollo capsule had entered Lunar orbit. On that evening, those of us having attained a certain age, remember well their transmission from the lonely reaches of space, far from home and family. The crew had debated what they might discuss during the short broadcast.
The crew recognized immediately that the subject should be that blue marble nearly a quarter of a million miles away, Jim Lovell had this to say “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize what you have back there on Earth.”
Being at the height of the cold-war, thoughts of the continuity of our civilization were an ever present, unwelcome part of life. Seeing the earth from Lunar orbit as the only possible place where men might survive undoubtedly crossed their minds that evening.
Perhaps from no other place, than the black, airless, frigid void of space, can one appreciate the vastness of G-d’s Creation, the Universe and this tiny, inconsequential speck within that universe that we call home and Earth.
Surrounded by a hostile environment, that would result in near instant death on exposure, it’s easy for a mortal to recognize your own frailty and that this planet is indeed an ideal space-ship for man. Perfectly designed, built and operated, such that nearly hairless, weak bipedals capable of rational thought, dreams and the appreciation of a Higher Power at work, could not only survive, but thrive.
Perhaps other men, might have thought of themselves as deities, having achieved such a miraculous task, undertaking a voyage that even Columbus couldn’t dream possible. But that crew, knew, well and truly, that the Universe operates under the supervision of something that we don’t have the facilities to describe, merely a name to describe the utterly indescribable.
These three brave men, aviators and American heroes, Mission Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders, at that time and place knew, that recognition of the Creator was in order, and as such, began the final portion of the transmission of Apollo 8, reading from the Book of Genesis, describing the Creator’s labors resulting in the cradle of humanity.
“For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you”.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”
“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
“And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.”
Borman then added, “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth.”
And on this evening, may we wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and G-d’s Blessing to all of goodwill, on the Good Earth. —JB and Country Red