NASA Administrator James E. Webb administered the oath of office. He had announced in Austin, Tex., on December 10, that President Lyndon B. Johnson had accepted his recommendation that Seamans be named to the number two NASA post.
All launch and boost phases were normal and the spacecraft with the S-IVB stage was inserted into an earth-parking orbit of 190.6 by 183.2 kilometers above the earth. After post-insertion checkout of spacecraft systems, the S-IVB stage was reignited and burned 5 minutes 9 seconds to place the spacecraft and stage in a trajectory toward the moon - and the Apollo 8 crew became the first men to leave the earth's gravitational field.
The spacecraft separated from the S-IVB 3 hours 20 minutes after launch and made two separation maneuvers using the SM's reaction control system. Eleven hours after liftoff, the first midcourse correction increased velocity by 26.4 kilometers per hour. The coast phase was devoted to navigation sightings, two television transmissions, and system checks. The second midcourse correction, about 61 hours into the flight, changed velocity by 1.5 kilometers per hour.
The 4-minute 15-second lunar-orbit-insertion maneuver was made 69 hours after launch, placing the spacecraft in an initial lunar orbit of 310.6 by 111.2 kilometers from the moon's surface - later circularized to 112.4 by 110.6 kilometers. During the lunar coast phase the crew made numerous landing-site and landmark sightings, took lunar photos, and prepared for the later maneuver to enter the trajectory back to the earth.
On the fourth day, Christmas Eve, communications were interrupted as Apollo 8 passed behind the moon, and the astronauts became the first men to see the moon's far side. Later that day , during the evening hours in the United States, the crew read the first 10 verses of Genesis on television to earth and wished viewers "goodnight, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you - all of you on the good earth."
Subsequently, TV Guide for May 10-16, 1969, claimed that one out of every four persons on earth - nearly 1 billion people in 64 countries - heard the astronauts' reading and greeting, either on radio or on TV; and delayed broadcasts that same day reached 30 additional countries.
On Christmas Day, while the spacecraft was completing its 10th revolution of the moon, the service propulsion system engine was fired for three minutes 24 seconds, increasing the velocity by 3,875 km per hr and propelling Apollo 8 back toward the earth, after 20 hours 11 minutes in lunar orbit. More television was sent to earth on the way back.
These days the Mir-space station is flying on a sun orbit. So Mir remains in sunlight continuously and does not fly in eclipses at all. This means an extra burden for the thermoregulation of the complex. It is very warm on board, but the cosmonauts have not complained about this inconvenience thus far.
Elektron (oxygen generator):
For some weeks during communication sessions the crew reported on the internal pressure of one of the Elektrons. The values they reported were between 1.1 an 1.3. This value should remain not much higher than 1.1. After replacement of a unit or part of that Elektron, they no longer reported these values.
The crew executed a lot of experiments and most of their working hours were used for these activities. Less time was spent on maintenance and repair work of the life systems, for instance they refuelled the hydraulic thermoregulation system of the Kvant-2 module. They also had to repair electronic parts of experimental equipment (power units, interfaces, cables a.s.o.).
Among the executed experiments were the study of plant growth in the greenhouse Svet, the determination of optical characteristics of the earth's atmosphere with the photometer EFO-2, and with the magnetic spectrometer Mariya the study of high energetic particles in space and in the radiation belts of the earth.
Regularly the furnaces Krater, Gallar and Optizon passed in review. And the cosmonauts spoke about Ionozond, Dakon, Doze, Sigma and Alisa.
The cosmonauts also had to undergo medical checks while training on the home trainer (velo-ergometer) and the treadmill. A few times the electro cardio cassette sounds were transmitted via the VHF phone channel.
Mood on board:
Almost no complaining or dissatisfaction could be derived from radio traffic, but there also was neither exuberance nor cheerfulness. With TsUP, Padalka settles his matters in an efficient, clear and in a business-like way. Rarely Avdeyev gets the opportunity to use his nice Russian to bring up something, but even then Padalka quickly reconquers the microphone. During passes within my range, I did not hear reactions from the cosmonauts on the beginning of the ISS-assembly. Without comments they listened to the news about the ISS, relayed to them by TsUP .
The experiment with this solar reflector after the undocking of Progress-M40 will, if nothing changes, take place a few days before the launch of the Soyuz-TM29 with the 27th Main Expedition to Mir on 22.02.1999.
No more EVA's are planned for the present (26th M.E.) crew.
Now and then the Luch-1/Gelios satellite over 77 degrees East is in use for Mir-TsUP communications. And just like during the use of the old Altairs, this does not always go smoothly. For instance on 20.12.1998 family and friends gathered at TsUP for an Television session with Mir, but after 20 or 30 seconds the communications stopped.
And to conclude: For you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Chris v.d. Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202.