It was the first time American astronauts had been in space over the Christmas holiday. It was also the first time ever (unless some ancient trip is ever unearthed) that man had such a close-up of Earth’s moon. That’s what occurred during the mission of Apollo 8, which orbited the moon several times in those last few days of 1968, one of the “dress rehearsals” for the moon landings that began seven months later with the Apollo 11 mission.
Quite fittingly, the three astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders, read from the biblical book of Genesis in the final part of their transmission. After which, the legendary Walter Cronkite sums things up. A couple of days later, the astronauts successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean in their spacecraft, and another stepping stone to man’s greatest achievement was checked off.