24 DECEMBER 1968


This iconic photo of the Earth rising over the surface of the moon was taken by astronaut William Anders on the 4th lunar orbit aboard Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the Moon.    

Apollo 8 Earthrise day

NASA image AS08-13-2329

Considered by many to be the most influential environmental photo ever taken, Earthrise has been reproduced billions of times and continues to inspire awe and wonder. 


24 DECEMBER 1968


Apollo 8 was launched on December 21, 1968, and became the first manned spacecraft to leave the  Earth, the first to reach the Moon and the first to achieve lunar orbit.

MISSION DURATION - 6 days, 3 hours, 42 seconds

Apollo 8 took 68 hours (2.8 days) to travel the quarter of a million miles to the to the Moon. The command and service modules orbited the moon ten times over the course of 20 hours, during which the crew made a Christmas Eve television broadcast where they read the first 10 verses from the Book of Genesis. At the time, the television broadcast was seen by more people than any other broadcast, winning the crew an Emmy Award. Apollo 8’s successful mission paved the way for Apollo 11 to fulfill U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s goal of “landing a man on the Moon before the end of the decade and returning him safely to the Earth.” Apollo 8 returned to Earth splashing down in the Northern Pacific Ocean just before sunrise on December 27, 1968. The crew members were named Time magazine’s “Men of the Year” for 1968.


The three-manned crew — Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders — were the first men to ride the Saturn V rocket, still the most powerful rocket ever flown (and which had only been flown twice before). They became the first men to lay eyes on the far side of the Moon,  and witness an Earthrise.  


Originally planned as a second Lunar Module/Command Module test in an elliptical medium Earth orbit in early 1969, the mission profile was changed in August 1968 to a more ambitious Command Module-only lunar orbital flight to be flown in December, because the Lunar Module was not yet ready to make its first flight. This meant Borman’s crew was scheduled to fly two to three months sooner than originally planned, leaving them a shorter time for training and preparation, thus placing more demands than usual on their time and discipline.



William A. Anders

Lunar Module Pilot

James A. Lovell, Jr.

Command Module Pilot

Frank F. Borman, II


(“Lunar Module Pilot” was the official title used for the third astronaut  position in “Block II missions,” although the landing module was far behind schedule and unavailable for the bold Apollo 8 orbital mission. As LMP, Anders was responsible for photography aboard the mission. (He regrets to this day that “we didn’t use all the film we had. We probably came back with half the stuff unexposed!”)

Lovell was originally the back-up CMP with astronaut Michael Collins slated as the prime CMP. However,  Lovell moved to the prime slot when Collins had to have surgery for a cervical disc injury just one month before the decision was made to fly Apollo 8 without a LM into lunar orbit. (Lovell had to break the news to his wife that he would not be taking the family to Mexico for a long anticipated vacation. Marilyn asked “Just where do you think you’re going?” Lovell sheepishly answered, “Oh, how about the moon…”).

Lovell had flown twice before, on Gemini VII and Gemini XII, sharing the tiny Gemini capsule with Borman for two weeks aboard Gemini VII. Apollo 8 was Lovell’s third mission, Borman’s second and Anders’ first and only. 

The First Manned Mission to Another World

Apollo 8 Saturn V at sunset, December 20, 1968

Launch of Apollo 8, December 21, 1968

7:51 am eastern standard time

December 24 – EARTHRISE DAy

Listen to a sample of Robert Zimmerman’s “Genesis – the Story of Apollo 8” audiobook, Forward by Valerie Anders,  narrated by Grover Gardner

December 24 – EARTHRISE DAY

The crew of Apollo 8 read from the Bible’s Book of Genesis on Christmas Eve, 1968



Watch NASA's graphic recreation of the spacecraft as the EARTHRISE photograph was taken

Apollo 8 Earthrise Day