National Geographic : 1969 May
characterized the rigorous scheduling imper ative in so large and complex an operation. On closed-circuit television screens we watched the three astronauts-Col. Frank Borman, Capt. James A. Lovell, Jr., and Maj. (now Lt. Col.) William A. Anders-arrive at the launch pad in their white spacesuits and ride the elevator 320 feet up to the command module. At T-minus-2-hours-and-17-minutes (5:34 a.m.) the spacecraft hatch was closed. At intervals, I checked by intercom with George Low, Manager of the Apollo Space craft Program, who sat at a console nearby. Through our headsets we listened to the test conductor and crew go through their final detailed checklists-much like the checklists I have used so often as an Air Force pilot. Everything was GO-weather, range, tracking network, vehicle, crew. In the Con trol Center our display lights were all green. I would have to make no unhappy decision to "scrub" this all-important mission. Anticipation mounted steadily until igni tion was announced at T-minus-9-seconds. As I watched through binoculars, the Saturn V lifted on billows of orange and white at 7:51, the time we had set weeks before. Booster's Roar Blots Out Speech And so, on the morning of Saturday, De cember 21, 1968, began the history-making mission of Apollo 8-perhaps the greatest of all human adventures thus far. From my notes, and from the detailed transcript of communi cations between the men in space and those on the ground, we can tie together the high lights of that six-day flight. "Tower cleared," I hear Paul Donnelly, the Launch Operations Manager, announce 13 seconds after lift-off. The 6.2-million-pound vehicle, burning 15 tons of fuel a second, is now past any danger of collision with the umbilical tower. At this point, control passes from our Launch Control Center in Florida into the hands of Mission Control Center at Houston, Texas, and there Astronaut Mike Collins (page 634) takes over all communications with the spacecraft as capsule communicator. The men in the spacecraft are enjoying the smoothest rocket ride anyone has ever had, but the roar of the booster, reflected from the ground, makes hearing difficult for more than half a minute. 00:00:32* First word from Borman: The clock is running. He refers to the clock in *00 hours, 00 minutes, 32 seconds after lift-off. Italics indicate transcript of space-ground communications. 600 The Author SOR NEARLY five years 48-year-old Lt. Gen. Sam C. Phillips has guid ed the program dedicated to putting Americans on the moon by 1970. Named Deputy Director of Apol lo in January 1964, he became Director nine © N.G.S. months later. From 1959 to 1963, he was director of the Minuteman missile program, the heart of our nuclear defense. Arizona born and a graduate of the University of Wyoming, General Phillips flew two combat tours with the 8th Air Force in World War II. Since 1943 he has flown almost every type of plane in the Air Force, ranging from the P-38 fighter to recent jets.