Earthrise, 1968

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My first memory of the moon is with my Daddy in the front yard of our little house in the country on Highway 49 in Cheatham County, Tennessee. He held me in his arms and repeated the poem: “I see the moon. The moon sees me. God bless the moon. God bless me.”

I was fifteen years old when the world stopped to watch Neil Armstrong become the first human being to step foot on the moon. Throughout my childhood, I had stood in front of our black and white television and watched one spaceship after another launch from Cape Canaveral (later renamed Cape Kennedy) as America came closer and closer to President Kennedy’s goal of placing a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s. We Americans made it — with just five months to spare.

This coming Saturday, July 20, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. In all our history writing, Ray and I have especially enjoyed writing about that event, which was a powerful presence in our childhoods. This week I plan to share some of that writing with you.

This first story happened seven months before Americans landed on the moon. NASA scientists were working on how to land astronauts on the moon, but first they practiced getting them there and back safely. On December 21, 1968, three American astronauts blasted off from Cape Kennedy and went into orbit around the earth. They left Earth orbit and entered into orbit around the moon on Christmas Eve. They orbited the moon ten times. During their first orbit, they became the first humans to see the far side of the moon. The crew conducted tests to prepare for the moon landing the following year. They returned to Earth on December 27, 1968.

Here’s an excerpt from America the Beautiful (grades 5-8) that tells part of their story.

In 1968 an estimated one billion people watched on television or listened on radio when the three-man crew of Apollo 8 broadcast a Christmas Eve message while orbiting the moon. Frank Borman, James A. Lovell Jr., and William A. Anders had left Earth on December 21. They were the first astronauts to leave Earth’s orbit. Though they did not land on the moon, on Christmas Eve they began to orbit around it. The Apollo 8 crew gave the people of the world a wonderful Christmas greeting. First, William Anders said:

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.”

Then Jim Lovell said:

“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.”

Finally, Frank Borman spoke, saying:

“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.” 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.”

In addition to their greeting, the Apollo 8 crew sent a wonderful Christmas present to the people of the world — the first pictures that people on Earth had ever seen of their home from so far away. On Earth we can watch the sun rise in the morning and the moon rise at night. From the moon, the astronauts could see Earth rise.

When I wrote that lesson back in 2010, I read this portion aloud to Ray and we both teared up. Praise God for His wonderful Creation, His tender care, and for this memory of major news sources broadcasting live a reading from the first chapter of Genesis.

He made the moon for the seasons;
The sun knows the place of its setting.
Psalm 104:19









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  1. That was wonderful to remember the first message from outer space. It is so hard to imagine that anyone would deny the existence of a Holy God when everything that he created is there for us to marvel at. Ramona

  2. I was 8 years old. I didn’t comprehend how amazing it was.

    This is a perfect example of why we love Notgrass History.

    Sad to imagine how the world would react if these same words were spoken in such a public way today..


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