Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Frank Borman, Astronaut Who Commanded Apollo 8’s Christmas 1968 Flight, Dead at 95

Frank Borman, Astronaut Who Commanded Apollo 8’s Christmas 1968 Flight, Dead at 95

NASA astronaut Frank Borman, who was the commander of the first Apollo mission to the moon, has reportedly passed away at the age of 95. 

According to ABC News, Borman passed away on Tuesday (Nov. 7) in Billings, Montana. He notably commanded Apollo 8’s Christmas 1968 flight, which circled the moon 10 times. The media outlet also reported that Borman had led troubled Eastern Airlines in the ‘70s and early ‘80s after his departure from NASA. 

In a statement on Thursday (Nov. 9), NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated the organization is remembering one of its best. “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.”

The Apollo 8 trio, which consisted of Borman as well as James Lovell Jr and William Anders, were launched into space on Dec. 21, 1968, from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. They then spent three days traveling to the moon and went into lunar orbit on Christmas Eve. After circling the moon 10 times between Dec. 24 and 25, they headed home on Dec. 27. 

While up in space, the trio read from the Book of Genesis to celebrate the holiday in a broadcast. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the Earth was without form and void; darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

Frank Borman finished the broadcast by declaring, “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.”

Anders and Lovell are still alive and among the oldest astronauts.

Frank Borman Flew With James Lovell Jr. During the Two-Week Gemini 7 Mission Before Apollo 8 

Prior to the Apollo 8 mission, James Lovell Jr. and Frank Borman flew together during the two-week Gemini 7 mission. During that mission, which took off on Dec. 4, 1965, they due completed the first space orbital rendezvous with Gemini 6 at only 120 feet apart. 

During an interview with The Associated Press in 1998, Borman admitted that Gemini was a “tough go” for him. “It was smaller than the front seat of a Volkswagen bug. It made Apollo seem like a super-duper, plush touring bus.”

Frank Borman also pointed out in his book Countdown: An Autobiography that Apollo 8 was originally supposed to just orbit Earth. However, following the success of the Apollo 7 mission in Oct. 1968, NASA decided it was time to go to the moon. Borman noted there was another reason for the change of plans – NASA wanted to beat the Russians by getting to the moon first. “My main concern in this whole flight was to get there ahead of the Russians and get home,” he wrote. “That was a significant achievement in my eyes.”