20/12/2021 admin

The First Christmas… in space!

Earthrise: our home planet as seen from lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, 1968 (William Anders/NASA)

By M. Jaime, teacher at AIT La Garriga

Many astronauts on board the International Space Station have celebrated Christmas in space. However, the crew aboard Apollo 8 were the first to do it back in 1968.

The mission

Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to the moon: their objective was to land on it and return safely to Earth. Apollo 8 launched on the 21 st of December 1968 for a six-day mission and entered the moon’s orbit on Christmas Eve.

The First Christmas in space

Apollo 8 crewmembers. Left to right: James Lovell, William Anders and Frank Borman (NASA)

That evening, the astronauts held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from space.

Let’s celebrate Christmas!

The crewmembers enjoyed a Christmas dinner of hot cocoa, sugar cookies, corn chowder, and chicken and gravy, as well as some orange juice.

The astronauts also read a holiday message from the Bible and they said goodbye with the following words:

And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.

The astronauts came back to Earth on the 27 th of December. Although they hadn’t landed on our nearest neighbour, Lovell, Anders and Borman were the first humans to witness and photograph of the Earth rising over the moon. The picture, called Earthrise, was taken by Anders and it is one of the most iconic ones of our time.

The First Christmas in space 2

Earthrise: our home planet as seen from lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, 1968 (William Anders/NASA)

Nowadays, crewmembers of the International Space Station celebrate with Christmas decorations, phone calls to Earth and some special holiday food. They have great holiday parties in orbit!

Your Turn!

  1. Would you like to spend Christmas in space? Why/Why not?
  2. What did the astronauts have for dinner? Find pictures of what they ate and compare their meal with what you usually eat on Christmas.
  3. Astronauts usually send Christmas messages to people on Earth. If you had to send a message on Christmas Day from space, what would you say?
  4. How do you think the astronauts aboard Apollo 8 felt when they saw the Earth rising for the first time? Write the conversation you imagine they had in that amazing moment.