Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the Moon, entered lunar orbit on December 24, 1968.
That evening, Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders did a live television broadcast.
“We were told that on Christmas Eve we would have the largest audience that had ever listened to a human voice,” recalled Borman during 40th anniversary celebrations in 2008. “And the only instructions that we got from NASA was to do something appropriate.”
Incidentally, the Apollo 8 mission was also famous for the iconic Earthrise image, snapped by Anders, which would give humankind a new perspective on their home planet. Lovell said, “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.”
So, after showing the earthbound audience photos of the Earth and Moon seen from Apollo 8, the astronauts ended their Christmas Eve broadcast by taking turns reading from the book of Genesis.
“For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.”
“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. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”
“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
“And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.”
Borman then added, “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.”