On 24 December 1968, Colonel Frank Borman and the crew of Apollo VIII became the first men to leave earth's environment. They traveled 230,000 miles into space and rendezvoused with the moon--an odyssey without precedent in human history. Born in Gary, Indiana, in 1928, Frank Borman grew up in Tucson, Arizona, graduated from West Point in 1950, and received a commission in the Air Force following graduation. After pilot training in 1951, he was assigned to various fighter squadrons in the United States and the Philippines.
In 1957, Colonel Borman earned his M.A. degree in aeronautical engineering from the California Institute of Technology and, for the next 5 years, taught thermodynamics and fluid mechanics at West Point. He was assigned to Edwards Air Force Base, California, in August 1960 as a member of the first USAF Aerospace Research Pilot Course. In 1962, he entered NASA's second class of pilots chosen for astronaut training. Three years later, with fellow astronaut James Lovell, he orbited the earth in the Gemini VII spacecraft for 14 days--a record for a manned space flight. The mission demonstrated that astronauts could be adequately supported during a mission to the moon and that a trained crew could endure zero gravity without ill effects long enough to complete the lunar trip.
Colonel Borman's next space mission, Apollo VIII, was launched from the Kennedy Space Center on 21 December 1968. Three days later, the crew broadcast live television pictures of the lunar surface from an orbit 60 miles above the moon. As man's first navigation of translunar space, the Apollo VIII mission established an impressive number of records and set the stage for the first landing on the moon less than 1 year later. Frank Borman retired from the Air Force in 1970.
Sixty-five wars after the Wright brother achieved the first, brief powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Spacecraft Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James A. Lovell, Jr., and Lunar Module Pilot William A. Anders became the first men to navigate translunar space and orbit the moon. The crew of the Apollo VIII spent 20 hours in lunar orbit and circled the moon 10 times during their flight of 21-27 December 1968. Among the many highlights of the mission was a special Christmas broadcast to earth; each astronaut read a verse from the first chapter of the book of Genesis.