The battle of the Cold War that fought in the orbit of the moon


It is December 21, 1968, 7:50 am in the morning, Cape Kennedy, Florida. The crew of Apollo 8 – Frank Borman, Jim Lowell and Bill Anders – moored in their seats, about 110 meters high at the top of Saturn's first man, the most powerful rocket ever built in history.

As the last seconds pass before takeoff, they don't have to say or do. Some four million liters of fuel are about to burn under them.

They are, like the commentary on BBC television that witnessed the event, "Sit on the equivalent of a huge bomb".

And there are many reasons to be worried.

During the independent unmanned tests of Saturn V, a few months earlier, the strong vibrations and gravitational force recorded shortly after launch They would have killed anyone who was on board.

And although the rocket has been modified since then, NASA has severely warned Borman's wife They probably are her husband has To survive the mission Are Of 50/50.

The operation of the Saturn V rocket is not the only thing that commands those responsible for NASA: Apollo 8 is a mission in which Many things happen for the first timeA giant leap into the career of people to the moon.

It will be the first manned spacecraft to leave ground orbit, the first to orbit the moon and the first to return to Earth in an impressive speed of 40,000 kilometers per hour.

The mission is a move calculated by the site agency To hit the Soviet Union.

Soviet competition

"It is a very, very bold decision," says Teasel Mour-Harmony, Apollo's National Air Curator and Space Museum in Washington DC.

"Everyone in the agency knew that there was an extraordinary risk mission and there were many criticisms of the United States for Put human life in danger"

In fact, the mission of Apollo 8 He never pretended to be so ambitious.

It was originally planned as the first try of the descent module in Earth orbit, but the production of which module is late.

In addition, the CIA Alerted that it was a rationale that suggested that the Soviets were about to test them First Moon flight around the moon.

"Everyone forbid that the Apollo program is not a way of exploration or scientific discovery, It was a battle in the Cold War. And we're warriors in it, "Borman says.

Despite the rest of his bosses, and just after four months of training, Borman, a retired military fighter pilot, assured that he could never doubt the mission's success.

"We were forced to change the mission to reach the landing on the moon before the end of the decade." That President Kennedy has promised"Says.

"In my opinion, mission is extremely important not only for the United States but for free peoples everywhere," Borman says.

On the way to the moon

With the engines running and counting down, Saturn V slowly rises over the launch pad and accelerates into the blue sky of Florida.

"I felt As if we were at the top of a needle. The sound gave the impression of enormous power – I had the feeling that I was going to the rocket instead of being in control of something, "recalls Borman.

"It becomes very difficult to breathe, it is almost impossible to move and your eyes are flattened by the fact that you have the tunnel vision, it is an unusual feeling," he recalls.

About eight minutes later they were in orbit. Then, after having turned the earth one and a half times, they started the third stage of the rocket and moved away from the ground. In the direction of the moon.

After two days of traveling 402,000 square kilometers, at 8:55 GMT, on Christmas Eve, Borman is performing the critical operation with the Apollo service module that will put the ship in orbit around the moon.

"I think we'll be driving the engine for about four minutes to get enough of the lunar orbit we've done about this process, look down, it was the moon," recalls Borman.

His crew The first humans see the dark side of the moon straight with their eyes.

"I did not think anything that I learned had prepared me for a really hilly surface, it was really shattered, with holes, craters, volcanic debris, so it was very interesting. First, look at a different world", Adds the astronaut.

A new look at the earth

The moon's view is not the only thing they took by surprise.

Some 75 hours and 48 minutes after the start of the mission, Anderson saw blue earth's marble rising above the lunar horizon and looking for a color photographic film. Get the moment.

"The contrast between the shattered moon and the beautiful blue earth is extraordinary, The Earth was the only thing in the whole universe that had any color. You can see the white clouds, the pinkish brown of the continents – we are very fortunate to live on this planet, "Borman says.

A mission conceived as a huge test of people's technological creations and the courage of astronauts has become an unexpected emotional experience for those who participated in it.

The image of the "Exit the Earth" It would not be released until Apollo 8 returned to Earth, but by 1968 the crew had another gift for the planet.

Christmas message

"Before the flight, a public relations officer of NASA told Borman that they expected around one billion people, 1/4 of the world's population at the time, to maintain in Special TV That would be transmitted on Christmas Eve from the lunar orbit, "Mira-Harmony says.

His voice would be heard by more people than any other human voice in history, "so they told him something out of the ordinary," recalls the curator of the National Air and Space Museum.

"What is one of the highlights of a free country? Can you imagine if there are those Soviet who are up there? We would talk about Lenin and Stalin"Borman says.

But the "appropriate" results are not easy. "We, together with our wives, tried to think of something we couldn't do," he adds.

Borman consulted a friend, who-in three-questioned Joe Layton, a veteran war correspondent.

"As I understand it, he cries out night-night crumpled papers when his wife, who was a former member of the French resistance, came through and suggested Begin at the beginning"Says the astronaut.

With the television cameras recording, as the spacecraft appealed to the Lunar Dawn on Christmas Eve, the crew began to read the book of Genesis. "In the beginning?" Started Anderson.

Borman completed the broadcast said "good night, good luck, happy Christmas." God bless you allYes, to all of you on the good ground. "

"We are convinced that it was the most appropriate thing to do because there was a sense of awe on my part, at least, considering that the universe is bigger than all of us." It is also ordered and great to be the product of any kind of divine creation, "Borman says.

The return

But the mission is not yet finished. On Christmas Day, Borman started the engine again to leave the Lunar Orbit. "The insertion in ground orbit was achieved on the dark side of the moon, if it were otherwise, I would still be around the moon."

"Know, please, that Santa Claus exists"Exclusively at the moment, restell contact with Earth. And Santa made his delivery.

Treated with a special fire-proof festive alliance, the crew prepared their gift prepared by the mission control center: a baked turkey for dinner.

"(Our host) Deck Payton has also furtively put on board Three shots of cognac But we don't take it. I didn't want to be noticed if something was wrong, so we brought them back home. I don't know what happened to mine. It's probably a lot of money now, "says Borman.

On December 27, the crew returned to Earth. The capsule fell so close to its goal in the Pacific Ocean that it was going to pick them up.

It was quite complete ending The perfect missionThe definitive proof of the move to the moon is going to be worth it.

"Apollo 8 was not only a great achievement of science and engineering, it extended the boundaries of human experience and affected the way we appreciate earth as our place in the universe," says Mair-Harmony.

For Colonel Borman, who at the age of 90 is after a formidable Cold War warrior, the great achievement of the mission was United States, one step closer to the moon.

"I'll be honest with you, I really don't think about the legacy of Apollo 8. Frankly after the success of Apollo 11 (on the moon), I'm not interested in this program I was enrolled in fighting a fight The cold war and we won, "he says.

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