The moon

Space Mission
Apollo 8, December 1968


Photo Description
Vintage NASA “Red Number” chromogenic color photograph, 10 by 8 inches, “A Kodak Paper” watermark to verso. NASA image ID “NASA AS8-14-2485” printed in upper left margin in red

Apollo 8 was the first crewed spacecraft to successfully orbit the Moon and return to Earth. The service propulsion system (SPS) engine was ignited 69 hours, 8 minutes, and 16 seconds after launch, and burned for 4 minutes and 7 seconds, placing the Apollo 8 spacecraft in orbit around the Moon. The length of the burn was essential: if it failed to last long enough, the spacecraft might have been flung off into space; if it had lasted too long, the crew would have risked hitting the Moon. After checking that the spacecraft was working properly, the crew finally had the opportunity to look at the Moon properly, and CMP James Lovell reported: “The Moon is essentially grey, no color; looks like plaster of Paris or sort of a grayish beach sand…”