The Road to the Moon Landings – Apollo 8 – National Geographic, 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. The articles in National Geographic were published several months after the missions they covered, and thus lack the immediacy of other magazines. But the magazine benefited from the wait to produce a more in-depth story, featuring the astronauts’ return and Col Borman’s speech to the Congress.

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