As Apollo 8 drifted above the far side of the moon Borman, Lovell, and Anders observed a scene of total desolation. It appeared absent of color, except for various shades of gray. There was no atmosphere to soften the view, it was a scene of extreme clarity.
At T plus 40 seconds Apollo 8 went supersonic and the ride smoothed out. Now it was quite again, but Borman kept a watchful eye on the trajectory readouts. If there was a Saturn malfunction he could whisk the capsule away just by twisting the abort handle. This would trigger the escape rocket.
Until now the astronauts knew, in the back of their minds, there was a possibility that a malfunction would turn this countdown into just another practice run and they would have to get out and try again another day. But, as the count reached T minus 15 minutes, there was no doubt, they were really going.
For now the mighty Saturn V stood empty. But overnight, even while Borman’s crew slept, technicians would ready it for departure. By morning its enormous fuel thanks would be filled with cryogenic propellants, until the rocket would contain the explosive energy of an atomic bomb.
The successful Apollo 7 flight cleared the way for a US moon landing in 1969. Still a lot of flight and ground testing remained and there would probably be surprises. The greatest concern was Nasa had to complete three virtually flawless missions and achieve every major test objective before a lunar landing could be attempted. The odds seemed to be stack against NASA.
“Dear friends, you who are close to me, and you whom I do not know, fellow Russians, and people of all countries and all continents: in a few minutes a powerful space vehicle will carry me into the distant realm of space. What can I tell you in these last minutes before the launch? My whole life appears to me as one beautiful moment. All that I previously lived through and did, was lived through and done for the sake of this moment.” Yuri Gagarin prior to launch of Vostok 1.
“On my honor I will do my best, To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” The Boy Scout Oath.
“So the reason I took those symbols was that I think this was the most important thing I had going for me, and I felt that while I couldn’t take one for every religion in the country, I could take the three I was most familiar with.” Ed. White