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Former astronaut says sending people to Mars would be "stupid"

Former astronaut says sending people to Mars would be

Michael Smith, a history professor at Purdue University, which dubs itself "The Cradle of Astronauts" for training 24 of them, said with the journey of Apollo 8, "Americans had won a big part of the race to the moon". As they're approaching the terminator on their fourth orbit, they see the Earth coming up over the moon's barren horizon.

"And then the launch of Apollo 8 brought a binding to the people of our country", Lovell said.

Then it was the end. Especially Apollo 8, the "everything but a landing" mission to the moon. "I want people to come to Oshkosh and enjoy this'". It was still dark. In an interview with NPR earlier this year, Borman, the mission commander, noticed the same thing. "There's no way you could simulate or train for the noise that that beast put out".

"The first ten verses of Genesis is the foundation of numerous world's religions, not just the Christian religion", added Lovell. If everything went right, mankind would never be the same.

So, everyone - the Russians included - was glued to their TVs.

Translunar flight of Apollo 8.

BORMAN: The only telegram I remember out of all the thousands we got after Apollo 8 was, it said, thank you, Apollo 8.

Even though it would fly farther than any manned spaceship ever had and produce a photograph of the Earth from the perspective of the moon that's widely credited with launching the environmental movement, Borman said he had one overriding goal on the trip. I know the crew was happy to be home and out of the everything-is-trying-to-kill-you environment of space, but I love the adventure of going there and get sad when it's time to come home! Apollo 8 was making the ninth of its 10 scheduled revolutions around the moon, and it was time for the crew to "say something appropriate" to a waiting world. "I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Wow, isn't that pretty!" said Anders. There would be only the single engine of the command module, which would be needed repeatedly - to fly to the moon, to enter lunar orbit, to escape from the lunar orbit, and to return to earth. But Anders did it anyway. "Here was a lovely shot". With it, I began looking at the world through a new lens, one no doubt shaped by the events of that pivotal year. But on Christmas Eve 1968, the capsule made it to lunar orbit.

We had had no discussion on the ground, no briefing, no instructions on what to do. It's the spirit behind the climate change exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in NY, and it's the centerpiece to nearly every climate presentation Gore has ever given.

Perhaps most significant is the impact it had on the environmental movement.

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"Oh, no question about it", Gore replied. It was the first color photograph of Earth from space.

After checking out their spacecraft's systems, the crew prepared for the crucial Trans-Lunar-Injection (TLI) which required a re-ignition of the Saturn V's third stage, still attached to the Apollo spacecraft.

"We were told that on Christmas Eve we would have the largest audience that had ever listened to a human voice", recalled Borman during 40th anniversary celebrations in 2008.

But what to say?

As they pointed the camera to the lunar surface and panned to the distant Earth, they read from the Book of Genesis. Photos of Earth from the darkness of space stunned the world. They were the words of three in some ways very ordinary humans.

While only Lovell would fly again, on the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, all the equipment and procedures tested on Apollo 8 - the spacecraft, the NASA technicians and the global network of tracking stations - would support the remaining Apollo flights. "What could be more human than that?" For the first time, the rest of humanity experienced a hint of that astronautical overview effect.

Apollo 8's iconic Earthrise.

"What we've learned most was about spaceflight - getting rockets to go up and spacecraft to land, and you see that today in the mission to Mars. You saved 1968, '" said Borman.

BORMAN: And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a merry Christmas.

Story produced by Reid Orvedahl.