Astronaut Frank Borman, who commanded NASA’s first Apollo mission to the moon, has died aged 95.
Borman commanded Apollo 8’s historic Christmas 1968 flight, which saw the spacecraft circle the moon 10 times – paving the way for the following year’s lunar landing.
He died on Tuesday 7 November in Billings, Montana, NASA said.
Paying tribute to “one of NASA‘s best,” the space agency’s administrator Bill Nelson said: “Astronaut Frank Borman was a true American hero.
“His lifelong love for aviation and exploration was only surpassed by his love for his wife Susan.”
Borman’s wife Susan was his childhood sweetheart. She died in 2021.
The Apollo 8 mission launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 21 December 1968 and together with his crew, James Lovell and William Anders, Borman spent three days travelling to the moon before slipping into lunar orbit on Christmas Eve.
They then circled the moon 10 times on 24 and 25 December, before beginning their journey home on 27 December.
On Christmas Eve, a live telecast from the orbiter saw the astronauts read from the Bible’s Book of Genesis, saying: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the Earth. And the Earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”
Ending the broadcast, Borman said: “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.”
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In his book, Countdown: An Autobiography, Borman recalled how the Earth looked from space.
“We were the first humans to see the world in its majestic totality, an intensely emotional experience for each of us,” he wrote. “We said nothing to each other, but I was sure our thoughts were identical – of our families on that spinning globe.
“And maybe we shared another thought I had, This must be what God sees.”
After NASA, he moved into the aviation industry and joined Eastern Airlines, who were the fourth-largest airline in the US at the time.