The earth from Apollo 8 on December 23, 1968
It happens without sight, sound or sensation. It happens on December 23 after slightly more than 56 hours of flight, just minutes after a 25-minute TV broadcast in which we show the world to the world from a distance of 207,000 miles. We are 38,900 miles from the moon, and the grip of Earth’s gravity has slowed our spacecraft to a celestial crawl of 2,223 mph. Then like magic, we begin to gain speed. We have left Earth’s embrace and entered the gravity realm of the moon, pulling us toward it. LOI — Lunar Orbit Insertion — is thirteen hours away.
Fifty years later, early this morning, I stepped outside, clear, cold December skies, a blanket of snow gathering up the lunar light. Not the crescent moon of Apollo 8 or Apollo 11, but a full moon, as sharp as a map, the Sea of Tranquility plainly visible. I visualized Borman, Lovell, and Anders flying over it at an altitude of just 60 miles.
The moon did not appear as their moon. Nor as Apollo’s Moon. Or America’s moon. Or “mankind’s” moon. That was my moon shining up there, the one that’s been inside me since my birth and adolescence which coincided with that of Space Age of the1950s and ’60s.
When I was a child, I never saw a human face in the moon. I’d heard of of the “man in the moon” but only perceived a random pattern of splotches. Sometimes when looking at yourself in the mirror, it’s hard to recognize yourself.