Historic First Broadcast from Around the Moon on Apollo 8
THUNDER BAY – December 24 the day in history.
In 1968 on this day, the astronauts aboard Apollo 8 entered in to Lunar Orbit. This was the first time that a manned spacecraft had do that. The crew of Apollo 8, Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders — became the first humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit, the first to see Earth as a whole planet, the first to directly see the far side of the Moon, and then the first to witness Earthrise.
Apollo 8 took three days to travel to the Moon. It orbited ten times over the course of 20 hours, during which the crew made a Christmas Eve television broadcast where they read the first 10 verses from the Book of Genesis.
At the time, the broadcast was the most watched TV program ever. Apollo 8’s successful mission paved the way for Apollo 11 to fulfill U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s.
- 640 – Pope John IV is elected.
- 759 – Tang dynasty poet Du Fu departs for Chengdu, where he is hosted by fellow poet Pei Di.
- 1144 – The capital of the crusader County of Edessa falls to Imad ad-Din Zengi, the atabeg of Mosul and Aleppo.
- 1294 – Pope Boniface VIII is elected, replacing St. Celestine V, who had resigned.
- 1500 – A joint Venetian–Spanish fleet captures the Castle of St. George on the island of Cephalonia.
- 1777 – Kiritimati, also called Christmas Island, is discovered by James Cook.
- 1814 – The Treaty of Ghent is signed ending the War of 1812.
- 1818 – The first performance of “Silent Night” takes place in the church of St. Nikolaus in Oberndorf, Austria.
- 1826 – The Eggnog Riot at the United States Military Academy begins that night, wrapping up the following morning.
- 1851 – Library of Congress burns.
- 1865 – The Ku Klux Klan is formed.
- 1871 – Aida opens in Cairo, Egypt.
- 1906 – Radio: Reginald Fessenden transmits the first radio broadcast; consisting of a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech.
- 1911 – Lackawanna Cut-Off railway line opens in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
- 1913 – The Italian Hall disaster (“1913 Massacre”) in Calumet, Michigan, results in the death of 73 Christmas party goers held by striking mine workers, including 59 children.
- 1914 – World War I: The “Christmas truce” begins.
- 1924 – Albania becomes a republic.
- 1929 – Assassination attempt on Argentine President Hipólito Yrigoyen.
- 1939 – World War II: Pope Pius XII makes a Christmas Eve appeal for peace.
- 1941 – World War II: Kuching is conquered by Japanese forces.
- 1942 – World War II: French monarchist, Fernand Bonnier de La Chapelle, assassinates Vichy French Admiral François Darlan in Algiers, Algeria.
- 1943 – World War II: U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower is named Supreme Allied Commander for the Invasion of Normandy.
- 1951 – Libya becomes independent from Italy. Idris I is proclaimed King of Libya.
- 1953 – Tangiwai disaster: In New Zealand’s North Island, at Tangiwai, a railway bridge is damaged by a lahar and collapses beneath a passenger train, killing 151 people.
- 1955 – NORAD Tracks Santa for the first time in what will become an annual Christmas Eve tradition.
- 1964 – Vietnam War: Viet Cong operatives bomb the Brinks Hotel in Saigon, South Vietnam to demonstrate they can strike an American installation in the heavily guarded capital.
- 1966 – A Canadair CL-44 chartered by the United States military crashes into a small village in South Vietnam, killing 129.
- 1968 – Apollo program: The crew of Apollo 8 enters into orbit around the Moon, becoming the first humans to do so. They performed 10 lunar orbits and broadcast live TV pictures that became the famous Christmas Eve Broadcast, one of the most watched programs in history.
- 1969 – Charles Manson is allowed to defend himself at the Tate–LaBianca murder trial.
- 1973 – District of Columbia Home Rule Act is passed, allowing residents of Washington, D.C. to elect their own local government.
- 1974 – Cyclone Tracy devastates Darwin, Australia.
- 1979 – The first European Ariane rocket is launched.
- 1980 – Witnesses report the first of several sightings of unexplained lights near RAF Woodbridge, in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom, an incident called “Britain’s Roswell”.
- 1994 – Air France Flight 8969 is hijacked on the ground at Houari Boumediene Airport, Algiers, Algeria. Over the course of 3 days 3 passengers are killed, as are all 4 terrorists.
- 1997 – The Sid El-Antri massacre (or Sidi Lamri) in Algeria kills 50-100 people.
- 1999 – Indian Airlines Flight 814 hijacked in Indian airspace between Kathmandu, Nepal, and Delhi, India; aircraft eventually landed at Kandahar, Afghanistan. Ordeal ended on December 31 with the release of 190 survivors (1 passenger killed).
- 2000 – The Texas Seven hold up a sports store in Irving, Texas. Police officer Aubrey Hawkins is murdered during the robbery.
- 2003 – The Spanish police thwart an attempt by ETA to detonate 50 kg of explosives at 3:55 p.m. inside Madrid’s busy Chamartín Station.
- 2005 – Chad–Sudan relations: Chad declares a state of war against Sudan following a December 18 attack on Adré, which left about 100 people dead.
- 2008 – Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group, begins a series of attacks on Democratic Republic of the Congo, massacring more than 400.