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Navigating to the Moon and Back: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 8

"We Choose to go to the Moon" - John F. Kennedy

It’s strange to imagine, but humans left the vicinity of the Earth for the first time just 50 years ago this month. The Apollo 8 flight was an incredible feat of exploration that required astronauts to navigate using sextants and radio signals. Highlights from this 6-day mission include the successful (and difficult) placement of the spacecraft into lunar orbit, a live broadcast from the shuttle on Christmas Eve, and the iconic Earthrise photo.

To help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, a group from the Adler Planetarium is in Washington D.C. to share a special object from the Adler’s Collections during public events at the National Cathedral and the National Air and Space Museum.

Tonight, they will attend a celebration of Apollo 8 at the National Cathedral where the flight plan carried to the Moon and back by astronaut Captain James Lovell Jr. will be on display. This treasured artifact typically calls the Adler’s Mission Moon exhibition home, and includes a detailed flight schedule and notes for the famous Bible reading that occurred during the historic Christmas Eve broadcast in 1968.

Captain Lovell himself will be in attendance and you, too, can join the celebration at the National Cathedral tonight at 7:00 pm CT via NASA TV.

Apollo 8 Flight Plan from the Adler's Mission Moon exhibition
Apollo 8 flight plan
Apollo 8 Flight Plan Item Description
Apollo 8 flight plan item description from Mission Moon display

Tomorrow, Wednesday, December 12, Adler’s VP for Astronomy and Collections, Dr. Andrew Johnston, will be leading a talk that showcases the flight plan along with other objects of lunar exploration at the National Air and Space Museum. You can catch Andrew’s talk on Facebook Live at 10:00 am CT via the National Air and Space Museum’s Facebook page.

Adler Team with Apollo 8 Flight Plan
Dr. Andrew Johnston, VP for Astronomy and Collections (right), and Chris Helms, Collections Manager (left), showcasing the Apollo 8 flight plan at the Adler Planetarium.

Throughout history, humans have curiously observed and watched the Moon. From observing with only the naked eye to looking through the lenses of high powered telescopes, we have imagined the possibilities. And in 1968, Apollo 8 challenged our understanding of human limitations. No longer was the Moon a distant object in our sky, but a new world we would find ourselves longing to step foot on.

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