American astronaut Frank Borman died on Tuesday in the US state of Montana at the age of 95. NASA reported this on Thursday. Borman was the captain of the legendary Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon.
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“Frank Borman was a true American hero,” said Space Agency Administrator Bill Nelson.
Borman started his career as an officer in the United States Air Force. “His exceptional experience and expertise led to him being selected by NASA to be part of the second group of astronauts,” Nelson said. In 1965, he went into space for the first time on board the fourteen-day mission Gemini 7. He managed to get within tens of centimeters of Gemini 6: the first rendezvous in space.
Christmas Eve stunt
On December 21, 1968, Borman took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Saturn V with Jim Lovell and Bill Anders to launch Apollo 8 to the moon. After a few orbits around our planet, they immediately became the first people to escape it. About seventy hours after launch, the capsule entered orbit around the moon. The crew captured an iconic photo: the rising Earth on the horizon of the desolate moon. The scene is depicted on an American postage stamp.
On Christmas Eve, the three astronauts pulled off an even bigger stunt. While millions of viewers gawked live through the windows of the Apollo at the passing surface of the moon, each of the three read from the book of Genesis. “And God saw that it was good. Finally, on behalf of the crew of Apollo 8, we wish you all good night, happy Christmas and God bless each of you on the good earth.” For Borman, Apollo 8 was his second and last space flight.
“His service to NASA and our nation will undoubtedly define the Artemis generation (the space program initiated by NASA to land astronauts, including the first woman, on the moon again by 2024, ed.) inspire us to reach new cosmic shores,” concludes Nelson.