And Anders says it forever changed the way people think about where we live.
"And then at the end of the year, we had this moment to do this magnificent thing".
The space travelers had spun around the moon a couple of times as of now, their look pointed down on the dark, pitted lunar surface.
"Hand me a roll of color quick, will you", he said.
Seeing so much of the Earth, all at once, provides them with a view where borders all but vanish, and the risky and accelerating changes we are making to our environment become all too apparent.
Knapinski added, "Apollo 8 was the mission that laid the groundwork or kind of set the road for missions to come, looking at the moon, where would be the good landing spots, where do you take it from here".
Yet the period is now seen as a golden age, Dr Hopwood said. The excerpt below from my 2017 book Apollo 8 describes the scene, reconstructed with the help of interviews with the crew, as the astronauts emerged from the far side of the moon, not yet knowing the image that awaited them. Lee Cowan talks with astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders; with Jeffrey Kluger, author of a book on Apollo 8; and with former Vice President Al Gore, who talks about the impact of that mission on man's environmental awareness. "It was serendipity saying, 'Humanity, you guys deserve a break, make the most of it'". "I said that it looked like dirty beach sand", Anders recalled.
Orbital mechanics meant that the four minute seven second burn occurred while the spacecraft was out of contact with the Earth, leaving sphincters clenched as controllers awaited confirmation that Apollo 8 was safely in orbit.
So when you send a Christmas message this year, spare a thought for those messages from the Moon 50 years ago, and the role Australian scientists played in receiving them. But to Borman, only one first really mattered: "What I wanted to do was go to the moon and come back alive, because I knew that would beat the Russians". I arranged to meet him at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Everyone eventually agreed: Ten orbits it would be.
"Oh, my God", exclaimed Bill Anders, the lunar module pilot.
"Oh man, that's great", Lovell said, still fixed on the apparition outside his window. "And the only instructions that we got from NASA was to do something appropriate".
Earth, this bright, handsome sphere, alone in the inky vastness of space, a soloist at the edge of the stage suspended in the spotlight.
I can't write about Apollo 8 without mentioning the Christmas controversy. There was too much anger in the world, too much war and sadness, for someone as kind and giving as Santa Claus to really exist.
For Apollo 8, Honeysuckle Creek received telemetry and voice communications when the spacecraft first went into orbit behind the Moon, when it first emerged back into communication with Earth, and when it began its fiery re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere on December 27. Photos of Earth from the darkness of space stunned the world. He said that he has always been a supporter of unmanned missions mainly because they are cheaper.
EPIC's objective is to provide multiple images of Earth per day, to allow us to see how the world is changing over time. "Thanks, you saved 1968".
Popular Mechanics: "Why Apollo 8 Mattered" - "The small step for man, the giant leap for mankind, Eagle One, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong-Apollo 11 gets all the glory".
BORMAN: And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a merry Christmas.
Story produced by Reid Orvedahl.