Few can deny the tumult of 1968. The War in Vietnam waged on, MLK and RFK were assassinated, and Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey” was released. But America got some Yuletide cheer from the Apollo 8 astronauts, who completed the first manned orbit of the Moon on Christmas Eve that year. The crew leader, Frank Borman, was a NASA longtimer recruited as part of the “Next Nine” in 1962. He spent 14 days in space aboard Gemini 7, and in the aftermath of the Apollo 1 disaster his pugnacious defence of NASA in front of Congress was crucial to rescuing the lunar dream, and he doggedly oversaw the construction of new spacecraft to ensure the tragedy wouldn’t repeat.
The Earth-orbiting Apollo 7 marked a successful return to manned missions, and Apollo 8 was expected to be another Earth circler. But the eternal dick-measuring with the Soviets (who had orbited the Moon with an unmanned spacecraft in September 1968) caused NASA to shoot a little higher. Apollo 8 featured Borman, his old Gemini mate Jim Lovell, and William Anders, and the trio became the first to witness the lunar surface up close while Anders snapped the unforgettable Earthrise photograph. Borman was considered for Apollo 11, but was committed to hanging up his boots after Apollo 8. That he helped make the Moon landing possible was enough, and he was there in the Oval Office at Nixon’s side as Neil Armstrong made history.
Borman was 95 and his death means there is now no Apollo mission where the entire crew is still living. He was in the orbit of seven teams (missed opportunity not being eight), including both space teams, Grim McGraw, and Naked Florida Gravediggers.
14 March 1928 – 7 November 2023, aged 95
7 TEAMS (💀💀💀💀💀 5 POINTS, 🃏 (x1) 10 POINTS)