Commander of first lunar flight was moved by the sight of “the good earth.”
Frank Borman, the astronaut who selected the opening passages of Genesis to read during the first manned mission to orbit the moon and concluded the Christmas Eve broadcast by asking God to bless everyone on “the good Earth” 240,000 miles away, died October 9 at the age of 95.
An estimated one billion people listened to the Apollo 8 astronauts read the Creation story in 1968. According to TV Guide, one out of every four humans on Earth turned on a TV the night before Christmas to see Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders circle 60 miles above the rocky surface of the moon. The three men were the first to leave Earth’s orbit and reach humanity’s nearest neighbor in space.
The awe of the moment was acknowledged with the reading of the first 10 verses of the King James Bible. The words thrilled millions, caused a bit of controversy, and confused those who couldn’t see the connection between the greatest scientific adventure of the modern era and an ancient religious text.
Borman, an Episcopal lay reader, said he was just trying to find something “appropriate” for the occasion.
“I’m not a fundamentalist. I don’t believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible; I believe in a liberal interpretation,” he explained to Parade magazine the following year. “And I accept its scriptural message—that God created the earth.”
Like many of the American astronauts in the space race with the Soviet Union, Borman saw the quest to put people on the moon as a scientific and technological test, a patriotic contest, and also something deeply religious. He echoed what others said about the essential spiritual aspect of space exploration.
“I’m not aware …