Good Tidings to All!

Christmas Memories of Apollo 8  

Greetings Everyone

This Christmas story involves a friend who recently became part of our circle, although through one of life’s coincidences had very briefly crossed paths with Pat exactly 40 years ago.

On Christmas Day 1968, Pat (then in his early 20s) and his dear cousin Baba Dolan (in her mid-80s) were sitting on the wide, colonial-style veranda of Baba’s mountain-side home high above Honolulu in Hawaii. As usual, she was telling stories while knitting, her dog at her feet and rocking on her rocking chair. She loved to reminisce about the old days. It was at the end of the nineteenth century when her mother came to Hawaii on a clipper ship from San Francisco. The voyage took 69 days. Of these 39 were becalmed within sight of the smoking volcano of the Big Island. There’s quite a story of Baba, her family, the horse cavalry, and the final days of the Hawaiian monarchy. Baba’s mother was one of the last governesses of Princess Kalulani, the last princess of Hawaii. So many stories... but these are for another time.

December 1968 was a historic month. On Christmas Eve, Apollo 8 reached the moon and started a series of orbits. Pat point out to Baba how remarkable it was that during her lifetime she had experienced the end of the golden days of sail, the first flights made by the Wright brothers, and now the excitement of three men who were actually circling the moon. The space age had arrived. At no other time in history had people lived to bridge such technological leaps.

All the papers carried the news that should the mission be successful, which certainly was a question, the space capsule would land in the Pacific upon return to Earth. The astronauts would be picked up and flown to Hickam Air Force Base on O’ahu. Formerly Hickam Field was the parade grounds for the American Horse Calvary, of which Baba’s father had been a member. Pat and Baba along with half of the population of Honolulu shared the same thought — why not go out to Hickam and cheer the astronauts. In those days security was a non issue. Pat and Baba simply parked their car at the edge of the base and walked through a gap in the fence (just a four-foot-high chain-link somewhat in disrepair) onto the runway along with everyone else. The plane which ferried the astronauts from the air-craft carrier that met their floating spacecraft, landed and the red carpet was rolled out. Bill Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell walked out, waving and talking to everyone. Baba and Pat called “hello” and “welcome home” to the astronauts. Pat photographed the occasion. We have that photo yet today.

Nearly four decades passed and Rosemarie started corresponding with Bill Anders. Rosemarie is an officer of The Explorers Club and in this capacity she invited Bill and his wife to join the annual Salt Spring Symposium that she and Pat host for club. The Anders did attend. Both gave stellar presentations and have become good friends. From that September gathering, here’s a photo of our son Glen with Bill.

Bill Anders and Glen Keough seated on a hill

Here’s the same view from our home today, Christmas Eve 2008, with Ganges Harbour in the background.

Snow covered fir trees and the  harbour below, Salt Spring Island

Rosemarie sent a Christmas Message to explorers of the Canadian Chapter. Her message has since been sent to several thousand explorers around the world. We thought you too would enjoy the very special Christmas sentiments and also the commemoration of an extra-ordinary exploration that took place at this very time of year, 40 years ago.

Merry Christmas Week from our snowy mountain,

Rosemarie and Pat


From: Rosemarie Keough
Date: December 24, 2008
Subject: Explorers Club – Christmas Message from Apollo 8

Greetings to all Explorers!

Christmas Eve 1968, EXACTLY 40 years ago TODAY, Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit. With the success of this first manned mission to the moon, people everywhere celebrated! We were inspired. Man’s knowledge was greatly expanded. The environmental movement was energized with an iconic image Earthrise Bill Anders, a photo taken and beamed to Earth on Christmas Eve. This single image has had a profound impact on all of mankind. It was the first time our planet was seen by man to rise above the horizon of another heavenly body.

Earthrise photographed by Bill Anders


The Apollo mission carried The Explorers Club Flag into orbit around the moon. From the archives of The Explorers Club is this 1969 photo of Bill Anders being congratulated by Walter Wood, Explorers Club president.

Bill Anders in 1969 being congratulated by the Explorers Club president Walter Wood for a successful mission to the moon

The Explorers Club                    

Bill’s own reflections about Earthrise are most interesting. As quoted on Earth Day 2008 in Universe Today: “There are basically two messages that came to me. One of them is that the planet is quite fragile. It reminded me of a Christmas tree ornament. But the other message to me, and I don’t think this one has really sunk in yet, is that the Earth is really small. We’re not the center of the universe; we’re way out in left field on a tiny dust mote, but it is our home and we need to take care of it. It didn’t take long after the crew had returned home for this photograph to become iconic for the environmental movement. Back in the 60s it gave us a sense that the world was a place we all shared together. We couldn’t see any boundaries from space.”


I also thought to bring to everyone’s attention the Christmas message sent to Earth from Apollo 8, one which evokes my tears of hope and goodwill for all mankind even as I write this email, forty years later. From NASA’s website:

Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the Moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts: Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders did a live television broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and Moon seen from Apollo 8. Lovell said, “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.” They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis.

William Anders:
For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

Jim Lovell:
“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”

Frank Borman:
“And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.”

Borman then added: “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.”


Merry Christmas Everyone!  Wishing you many fine explorations in the New Year!

Rosemarie Keough
Chair, British Columbia and Yukon, Canada
The Explorers Club

   Top   |    Index   |    Next