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Remembering Apollo 8 — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback:Allgemeines Live-Blog ab dem 22. Dezember | Skyweek Zwei Punkt Null

  2. Great post, Bob!

    I remember that event well. I was in high school at the time. Last night, Brother Bob Macke and I watched the episode “1968” from the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, and I can recall each event… the Tet offensive, the assassinations, the riots, all the things that made 1968 such a tough year, and where I was at each of those moments. (On the other hand, that’s also the year that Denny McLain won 31 games for the Tigers and they won the World Series!) The comment at the end of that show rang true; hearing Genesis from the Moon did indeed save 1968.

    A second memory comes ten years later; as a postdoc at the Harvard College Observatory I was also a member of the South House Senior Common Room. We would gather once a week, young scholars affiliated with the Radcliffe/Harvard house then called South House. (It was renamed Cabot House in 1984). When I was asked to give a talk about planetary sciences to a group of mostly arts scholars (including the then-young concert pianist Lydia Artymiw) and without any slides, I was stuck… until I remembered that it would then be the 10th anniversary of the Apollo 8 circumlunar trip. Nobody needed slides; we all remember where we were and what we saw.

    A final memory is just this past year. Now, as a Grand Old Man (well, old, anyway) I get to sit on committees like the IAU’s Working Group on Planetary System Nomenclature and we met together in Flagstaff in September. Joining us was Bill Anders, who had taken the iconic Moonrise photo. He wanted to name one of the craters in the photo, and we worked out a name that didn’t do too much violence to our naming system… the crater in question is now called Anders’ Earthrise. Since Lovell had already gotten his wish of a Mt. Marilyn, we called up Frank Borman to see if he had a name he wanted to use in the photo; together we settled on 8 Homeward, for the first crater they would have seen when Earth came into view and Apollo 8 could take a look homeward.

  3. I remember, as Brother Guy, the terrible events of 1968 and how they reached out to me with a military draft -interrupting my graduate physical chemistry desires. By the time of the Apollo 8 flight, I was shoveling early morning snow for the US Navy at OCS Newport, Rhode Island and learning Dead Reckoning navigation skills during the day in the vein of Nathaniel Bowditch. Those were the days of slide rules, log tables, maneuvering boards, straight edge, charts, great circles, rhumb lines, compass, sextant, navigation stars and chronometers set to Greenwich Mean Time. The Apollo 8 crew with supporting engineers had not much more as they traversed the earth – moon space. It was remarkable that such simple geometric calculations actually worked in getting from A to B and a thanks be to God was warranted.

    By whatever means, navigation has uncertainty. In the 1968 era, open ocean positions were uncertain within miles. But that was acceptable as the ship approached the more identifiable land contours. There would be analogous Apollo uncertainties that would be corrected as it approached the moon and then back to earth. Of course GPS still has uncertainties on the order of centimeters.

    One wonders of the stellar navigation uncertainties confronting the Wise Men as they trekked overland to a certain position where God entered human existence.

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