Lunar and Planetary Institute

Apollo 8 Mission

Mission Overview

The overall objective of the mission was to demonstrate command and service module performance in a cislunar (between the Earth and Moon) and lunar-orbit environment, to evaluate crew performance in a lunar-orbit mission, to demonstrate communications and tracking at lunar distances, and to return high-resolution photography of proposed Apollo landing areas and other locations of scientific interest.

Mission Plan

Mission Plan thumbnailThe Apollo 8 mission was the eighth in a series of flights using Apollo-specification hardware, the second manned flight of a block II spacecraft, and the first manned flight using a Saturn launch vehicle. The mission was also the first to the vicinity of the Moon and was the continuation of a program to develop manned lunar landing capability.


Launch December 21    07:51:00 am 00:00:00
Earth orbit insertion 08:32:35 am 00:11:35
Translunar injection 10:41:37 am 02:50:37
Lunar orbit insertion December 24    04:59:20 am 69:08:20
Transearth injection December 25    01:10:16 am 89:19:16
Splashdown December 27    10:51:42 am 147:00:42

Launch Launch
The space vehicle was launched at 7:51:00 a.m. EST on December 21, 1968, and was inserted into a 103 by 98 nautical mile parking orbit. The launch vehicle was a three-stage Saturn V and the spacecraft was a standard block II command and service module configuration. A lunar module test article was mounted in the spacecraft/launch vehicle adapter for mass loading purposes.


The Apollo 8 spacecraft was similar in configuration to the Apollo 7 spacecraft. The most significant change was the replacement of the forward pressure and ablative hatches with the combined forward hatch, which was required for intravehicle transfer to the lunar module on later missions. Also, to provide more free space for activity, foldable crew couches were installed.

In order to carry out its mission, the Apollo 8 spacecraft required a fully functional command/service module. However, as no landing-related activities were included in the mission plan, a lunar module was not needed. Instead, a structural test article was installed in the spacecraft/launch vehicle adapter area of the Saturn V. This module, designated the lunar module test article B (LTA-B), provided a flight-load test and included instruments to measure acceleration forces.


Frank Borman Frank Borman, Mission Commander, was born on March 14, 1928, in Gary, Indiana. He received a bachelor of science degree from the U.S. Military Academy (1950), a master of science in aeronautical engineering from California Institute of Technology (1957), and was chosen with the second group of astronauts in 1962. He was back-up command pilot for Gemini 4, command pilot for Gemini 7, and commander of Apollo 8. In May 1969 he became Field Director of the Long-Term Space Station Program. He resigned from NASA and the Air Force on July 1, 1970.
James Lovell James A. Lovell Jr., Command Module Pilot, was born on March 25, 1928, in Cleveland, Ohio. He received his bachelor of science degree from the U.S. Naval Academy (1952) and was chosen with the second group of astronauts in 1962. He was back-up pilot for Gemini 4, pilot of Gemini 7, back-up command pilot for Gemini 9, command pilot for Gemini 12, command module pilot of Apollo 8, back-up commander for Apollo 11, and commander of Apollo 13. In May 1971 he became Deputy Director of Science and Applications at the Johnson Space Center. He retired from NASA and the Navy in March 1973.
William Anders William A. Anders, Lunar Module Pilot, was born in Hong Kong on October 17, 1933. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy and obtained a bachelor of science degree in 1955. In 1962, he received a master of science in nuclear engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He was chosen with the third group of astronauts in 1963. He was the back-up pilot for Gemini 11, lunar module pilot for Apollo 8, and back-up command module pilot for Apollo 11. He resigned from NASA and the Air Force in September 1969.

Back-up crew for this mission were Neil A. Armstrong (back-up commander), Edwin E. Aldrin (back-up command module pilot), and Fred W. Haise Jr. (back-up lunar module pilot).


SplashdownSplash Down
Command module/service module separation was performed at 146:28:48, and subsequent command module entry occurred approximately 17 minutes later. The spacecraft followed a guided entry profile and landed in the Pacific Ocean at 8°8'N latitude and 165°1'W longitude. The crew were retrieved and were taken aboard the USS Yorktown at 17:20 GMT, and the spacecraft was taken aboard approximately 1 hour later.

The Apollo 8 mission took 7 days and included 10 orbits around the Moon. Almost without exception, spacecraft systems operated as intended. All temperatures varied in a predictable manner within acceptable limits, and consumables usage was always maintained at safe levels. Communications quality was exceptionally good, and live television was transmitted on six occasions. The crew superbly performed the planned mission.