The Road to the Moon Landings – Apollo 8 – Look Magazine, 1969

In the upcoming two weeks, Iconic Photos would cover the NASA missions to the other space and the Moon as they appeared in leading picture magazines of the time: Life, Epoca, Paris-Match, Look, Sunday Times, etc.

These documents are not just historical records: they are tributes to the bravery and ingenuity of the astronauts and engineers who took humanity’s first steps into the vastness of space. They celebrate a time when space was a new and dangerous frontier, and each mission captured the world’s imagination.


When Apollo 8 went up there in December 21, 1968, everybody knew that the end was fast approaching. Apollo 8 was the first crewed spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit and the first human spaceflight to reach the Moon. The crew orbited the Moon ten times without landing. The largest-ever television audience to that point looked on as on Christmas Eve, 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 read from the Book of Genesis while the Earth receded in the window.

The first full-disk image of Earth from space taken by a person and the Earthrise photo that the astronauts took would also become instantly iconic.

The first to produce Apollo 8 special issues in color in the United States were the major newspapers. The weeklies were tied to specific pre-production and publication schedules. On instance, the New York Times had Earthrise on its front page on December 30. But in early January, the Times writers collaborated with Look magazine’s editors to produce a full 72 pages Apollo 8 special issue, with the headline: ‘Apollo 8: Voyage to the Moon.’ The issue was not part of the regular Look publication and sold for additional price of $1.25 (in comparison, an issue of Life magazine cost $0.40 then).

The writing was led by the Times’ science news coordinator Henry Lieberman. The Look magazine cover had the similar photo to that of Paris Match’s — Apollo earthrise photo shot with a regular lens and framed by the spacecraft’s window. Inside, the Earthrise was prominently shown in color over two pages.

But apart from Apollo 8 photos, the issue was a rehash of earlier works. The issue opened with Archibald MacLeish’s Reflection, which was printed over two full pages. MacLeish was a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, playwright and lawyer who served as a literary interpreter of events beyond the imagination of most observers, like the Attacks on Pearl Harbor and Apollo 11’s successful landing (more about that later). MacLeish’s reflection inspired by what he’d seen and heard the night before originally appeared on the aforementioned December 30th issue of the Times below the fold.

Works by Norman Rockwell, the painter-illustrator master of Americana, also appeared inside. His painting titled “Man’s First Step on the Moon” which first appeared in the January 10, 1967, issue of Look, was reproduced above. (Rockwell received letters for “errors” in his painting, which frustrated him and wrote a letter to Look’s science editor: “…I knew it would come up, this business of the light showing on the Earth…I spent a whole morning and a part of another morning with those top scientists down there at Houston and, as I told you, they rigged up a tennis ball, a globe and an electric light to show me that that was the way the sunlight would appear on the Earth up in the sky. They were all agreed and positive…”. Earthrise photo would prove Rockwell and Houston scientists wrong).

Other articles contextualized Apollo’s historic mission, placing it in the long history of cartography and global positioning methods spanning two millennia.

I don’t have a good copy of this issue. If any reader of this blog has, please do let me know in the comments below.

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38 thoughts on “The Road to the Moon Landings – Apollo 8 – Look Magazine, 1969

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