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Apollo 8 was the most dangerous of all the Apollo missions.
Never in history had humans traveled away from the protection of Earth to the airless, arid void of the Moon.
Four years before, NASA couldn’t even crash-land a space probe reliably, much less send something to orbit the moon. Spacecraft or their launch vehicles would fail. Courses intended to impact were miscalculated or were not set properly.
One spacecraft had made this trip before—a Soviet Zond mission made a circumlunar loop, without orbiting, with two tortoises, three months before.
But getting humans to the Moon was the primary objective of the Soviet Union and the United States.
Apollo 8’s crew was originally intended to fly the Lunar Module in Earth orbit for a shakedown test. But the LM had numerous issues left before it was ready. NASA management swapped missions with another crew and sent Jim Lovell, Bill Anders and Frank Borman on the first circumlunar voyage.
Apollo 8 would be the first crew to fly the Saturn V rocket. They would be first to fly aboard a restartable S-IVB third stage, which would make them first to escape Earth’s gravitational influence.
Unlike any other lunar mission, Apollo 8 had no Lunar Module. If the Service Propulsion System failed, there was no lifeboat. No rescue.
This article first appeared on www.quora.com
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