Apollo 8

second crewed flight of the United States Apollo program

Apollo 8 was a mission in the Apollo program in December 1968. It was the first crewed spaceflight to leave Earth orbit and first to orbit the Moon. Commander Frank Borman, Pilot Jim Lovell and Bill Anders transmitted a television show while they were in orbit. The Apollo Lunar Module that could land on the Moon had not yet been built, so they went in the Apollo Command/Service Module and photographed and studied the Moon from above. Ten orbits around the Moon took twenty hours. After that, they fired their rockets and returned to Earth.

Apollo 8
A black sky with a grey, cratered lunar horizon. A small blue Earth with scattered white clouds is just above the horizon, with about two-thirds of the Earth lit by the sun and the remainder in darkness.
taken from Apollo 8 by William Anders
Mission typeCrewed lunar orbiter
COSPAR ID1968-118A
SATCAT no.3626
Mission duration6 days, 3 hours, 42 seconds[1]
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerNorth American Rockwell
Launch mass
  • CSM: 28,870 kilograms (63,650 lb)[2]
  • CM:5,621 kilograms (12,392 lb)
  • SM:23,250 kilograms (51,258 lb)
  • SC/LM Adapter (connects LTA to CSM): 1,840 kilograms (4,060 lb)[3]
  • LTA: 9,000 kilograms (19,900 lb)[4]
Landing mass4,979 kilograms (10,977 lb)
Crew size3
CallsignApollo 8
Start of mission
Launch dateDecember 21, 1968, 12:51:00 (1968-12-21UTC12:51Z) UTC
RocketSaturn V SA-503[n 1]
Launch siteKennedy LC-39A
End of mission
Recovered byUSS Yorktown
Landing dateDecember 27, 1968, 15:51:42 (1968-12-27UTC15:51:43Z) UTC[5]
Landing siteNorth Pacific Ocean
8°8′N 165°1′W / 8.133°N 165.017°W / 8.133; -165.017 (Apollo 8 landing)[5]
Orbital parameters
Perigee184.40 kilometers (99.57 nmi)
Apogee185.18 kilometers (99.99 nmi)
Inclination32.15 degrees
Period88.19 minutes
EpochDecember 21, 1968, ~13:02 UTC
Revolution no.2
Lunar orbiter
Spacecraft componentCSM
Orbital insertionDecember 24, 1968, 9:59:20 UTC[6]
Orbital departureDecember 25, 1968, 6:10:17 UTC[5]
Orbit parameters
Periselene110.6 kilometers (59.7 nmi)
Aposelene112.4 kilometers (60.7 nmi)
Inclination12 degrees

Left to right: Lovell, Anders, Borman 
  1. Serial numbers were initially assigned by the Marshall Space Flight Center in the format "SA-5xx" (for Saturn-Apollo). By the time the rockets achieved flight, the Manned Spacecraft Center started using the format "AS-5xx" (for Apollo-Saturn).


  1. "Apollo 8". NASA. July 9, 2009. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  2. "Apollo 8 Press Kit" (PDF) (Press kit). NASA. December 15, 1968. pp. 33–34. Release No. 68-208. Retrieved June 28, 2013. – The spacecraft mass at launch includes the CM and SM, but excludes the 4,000 kilograms (8,900 lb) Launch Escape System (LES), which was discarded before reaching Earth orbit.
  3. "Pre-Launch Mission Operation Report No. M-932-68-08" (PDF) (Memorandum). NASA. December 17, 1968. p. 30. M-932-68-08. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  4. "Apollo 8 Mission Report" (PDF). NASA. February 1969. p. A-14. MSC-PA-R-69-1. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 2, 2013. Retrieved June 28, 2013. – The mass for LTA-B was less than that of a flying LM, because it was essentially a boilerplate descent stage. A fully loaded, flight-ready LM, like the Eagle from Apollo 11, had a mass of 15,095 kilograms (33,278 lb), including propellants.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Apollo 8 Mission Report" (PDF). NASA. February 1969. p. 3-2. MSC-PA-R-69-1. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 22, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
  6. "Apollo 8 Mission Report" (PDF). NASA. February 1969. p. 3-1. MSC-PA-R-69-1. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 22, 2016. Retrieved May 8, 2015.