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Merry Christmas from the moon

Updated 12:26 PM ET, Wed May 16, 2018
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Boys in Virginia watch the Christmas Eve broadcast of Apollo 8, which orbited the moon in December 1968. Apollo 8 marked the first time that humans had ever left Earth's gravity. An estimated 1 billion viewers in 64 countries watched as the NASA spacecraft beamed back live images of the lunar surface. Bruce Dale/National Geographic/Getty Images
The crew of Apollo 8: from left, Jim Lovell, Bill Anders and commander Frank Borman. Lovell later served as commander of the troubled Apollo 13 mission, delivering the famous line, "Houston, we've had a problem." nasa
Apollo 8 launched December 21, 1968, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It took three days to reach the moon. nasa
NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston on the third day of the mission. Seen on the TV monitor is a picture of Earth that Apollo 8 sent from 176,000 miles away. nasa
Anders, the lunar module pilot, is seen during the mission. The ultimate goal of the Apollo space program was to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth. That was accomplished with Apollo 11 in July 1969 -- just seven months after Apollo 8. NASA
This photo of a nearly full moon was taken during the Apollo 8 mission. Its three astronauts were the first people to see the far side of the moon -- the side of the moon that always faces away from Earth. NASA
Lovell piloted the command module during the mission. NASA
Apollo 8 was also the first time that humans took photos of the entire Earth from space. AP
Borman, the mission's commander, had previously been in space with Lovell for the Gemini 7 mission. They spent nearly two weeks orbiting the Earth in 1965. nasa
Apollo 8 spent 20 hours orbiting the moon. Anders took this photo of Earth as it appeared to rise from the moon's surface on December 24. The photo, now nicknamed "Earthrise," became one of NASA's most iconic photos. "Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! There's the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty," Anders said in a NASA recording before asking Lovell to hand him a roll of color film. NASA
Lovell's family watches an Apollo 8 telecast from their home in Houston. Apollo 8 had several telecasts during its mission, but its Christmas Eve telecast was the most-watched TV program ever. The crew each read from the Book of Genesis as footage of the lunar surface was sent back to Earth. "Good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you -- all of you on the good Earth," Borman said. Lynn Pelham/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Moon craters are seen in this photo taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft. When asked to describe the far side of the moon, which no human had seen to that point, Lovell said, "It's like a sand pile my kids have been playing in for a long time. It's all beat up with no definition. Just a lot of bumps and holes." AP
US President Lyndon B. Johnson, like millions of other Americans, sat glued to the television as the astronauts returned home on December 27. The crew splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean, before being recovered by the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. Bettmann Archive/getty images
The Apollo 8 crew is welcomed in Chicago in January 1969. In the back of the car, from left, are Lovell, Borman and Anders. They were named Time magazine's 1968 "Men of the Year." Preston Stroup/AP