On December 21, 1968, three humans climbed atop a massive rocket and left our planet for a six-day, round-trip journey to our nearest companion in the solar system, the moon. During the Apollo 8 mission, NASA astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders flew hundreds of thousands of miles across translunar space, becoming the first human beings to see the entirety of the Earth at once with their own eyes. They orbited the moon 10 times, and came within 70 miles of the surface, taking dozens of photographs, including one of the most famous and powerful images in human history, Earthrise, a compelling view of our home world, vibrant and colorful, contrasted against the forbidding blackness of space and the challenging landscape of the moon. Fifty years ago, Apollo 8 set the stage for Apollo 11, when men would first set foot on the moon, seven months later.

1. The Earth is seen off the lunar horizon in this telephoto view taken by the astronaut Bill Anders from the Apollo 8 spacecraft on December 24, 1968. On Earth, 240,000 miles away, the sunset terminator crosses Africa. The South Pole is in the white area near the bottom end of the terminator. North and South America are under the clouds. As the crew was in the middle of their fourth lunar orbit, Anders looked out of window 5 and exclaimed "Oh, my God! Look at that picture over there! Here's the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!" He and Commander Frank Borman shot several images of the event, with this one becoming the most famous, known as Earthrise.
Bill Anders / NASA
2. From left, the Apollo 8 astronauts Frank F. Borman II, James A. Lovell Jr., and William A. Anders, in November 1968
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3. The astronaut Frank Borman in the commander’s seat at left, Mike Collins at the controls, middle, and Bill Anders at right during a simulator training session for Apollo 8.
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4. The Apollo 8 space vehicle makes its way from the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building to pad A, launch complex 39, on October 9, 1968. The Saturn V stack and its mobile launch tower sit atop a huge crawler-transporter.
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5. A pre-launch-night view of Saturn 503 / Apollo 8 on pad 39A on December 20, 1968
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6. The night before the launch, a view of the Saturn V rocket for Apollo 8, readied on pad 39A, on December 20, 1968
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7. Commander Frank Borman suiting up on launch day, December 21, 1968
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8. A busy Launch Control Center at Kennedy Space Center, during the Apollo 8 mission prelaunch activities, on December 21, 1968
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9. The Apollo 8 crew lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 21, 1968.
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10. Reporters' eyes and an array of cameras track the Apollo 8 launch from the LC-39 press site.
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11. As the Apollo 8 space mission takes off, Marilyn Lovell (second left), and three of her children (from left, Susan, Jeffrey, and Barbara), watch as her husband, the astronaut James Lovell, launches into space with his crew, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on December 21, 1968.
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12. Mission control during the Apollo 8 launch, December 21, 1968
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13. This photograph of Earth was taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft while it was in Earth orbit in December 1968. Most of the southeastern United States, the Caribbean Sea, and the U.S. coastline from Chesapeake Bay to the Florida peninsula can be seen. The Bahamas and the islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico extend across the Caribbean, the light blue of the shallow Bahama banks contrasting sharply with the darker hue of the deeper water.
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14. This is a photograph taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft looking back at the Saturn V third stage, from which the spacecraft had just separated following translunar injection.
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15. The astronaut William Anders, the Apollo 8 lunar-module pilot, looks out the window as a camera records the scene during spaceflight in December 1968.
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16. A high-oblique view of the moon's surface showing Earth rising above the lunar horizon, looking west-southwest, as photographed from the Apollo 8 spacecraft as it orbited the moon
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17. A black-and-white image of the same Earthrise event captured in image number one, above, on December 24, 1968
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18. Sitting at a table, Valerie Anders (left) and Sue Borman react with relief after hearing the voices of their astronaut husbands, William Anders and Frank Borman, during their Apollo 8 space flight, in Houston, Texas, in December 1968.
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19. A photo of the lunar surface from orbit in December 1968. When the Apollo 8 crew first reached orbit, Mission Control asked them: "Apollo 8, Houston. What does the ole moon look like from 60 miles? Over." And the astronaut James Lovell responded, in part, "Okay, Houston. The moon is essentially gray, no color; looks like plaster of Paris or sort of a grayish beach sand."
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20. A look at the moon's surface from orbit in December 1968
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21. The astronaut James Lovell, command-module pilot, is shown during intra-vehicular activity on the Apollo 8 lunar-orbit mission in December 1968.
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22. Mountains and crater rims on the lunar surface catch the last bit of sunlight in darkness as the Apollo 8 crew orbits the moon.
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23. Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman famously described the moon's landscape as "a vast, lonely, forbidding expanse of nothing."
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24. Sue Borman (in light blue) and Gayle Anders (bottom) point at a poster of the moon while Gayle's mother, Valerie Anders, watches in Houston, Texas, in December 1968. The trio are tracking the route of the Apollo 8 mission piloted by the women's husbands, Frank Borman and William Anders.
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25. Apollo 8 crew members take a look out their window at the whole of the moon.
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26. President Lyndon Johnson, like millions of other Americans, sat glued to his television sets on December 27, during the critical stage of the Apollo 8 mission, in which the crew splashed into the Pacific at the end of their voyage around the moon. The president sipped a cup of tea as he watched.
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27. This Apollo 8 reentry photograph was taken by a U.S. Air Force Airborne Lightweight Optical Tracking System camera mounted on a KC-135-A aircraft flown at 40,000 feet on December 27, 1968. Apollo 8, with all crew members aboard, splashed down safely on December 27, 1968, in the central Pacific approximately 1,000 miles south-southwest of Hawaii.
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28. Divers in action during the Apollo 8 recovery, on December 27, 1968
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29. The crew of Apollo 8 addresses the crew of the USS Yorktown after a successful splashdown and recovery.
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30. The family of the Apollo 8 command-module pilot James Lovell, including his wife, Marilyn, at right, speak to the press after learning the crew had splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean following their successful lunar flight. At bottom center is Jeffrey Lovell, age 3, son of James Lovell, who had insisted on wearing the astronaut helmet Santa brought him when the family met with reporters.
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31. Showered in ticker tape, the Apollo 8 astronauts parade up Broadway in New York City on January 10, 1969. From left are Captain James A. Lovell Jr., Colonel Frank Borman, and Lieutenant Colonel William A. Anders.
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