Forty years ago this week three men became the first human beings to travel to the moon. The astronauts of Apollo 8, James Lovell, Frank Borman, and Bill Anders, did not land on the moon: they merely orbited it ten times. But they were the first people to ever leave Earth orbit, the first people to see the Earth as a full sphere hanging in the blackness of space, the first to watch the Earth rise above the moon, and the first to find themselves completely isolated and cut off from the rest of the human race on the back side of the moon, unable to see the Earth at all, and unable to receive or send any radio communications. They were also the first human beings to celebrate Christmas in space. On Christmas Eve, 1968, they did a live television broadcast from orbit, reading the first ten verses of Genesis.
Apollo 8 was launched on the morning of December 21, 1968. It entered lunar orbit at 4:59 AM Eastern Time on Christmas Eve and left lunar orbit at 1:10 AM Christmas morning. It splashed down into the Pacific Ocean on the morning of December 27, 1968.