When I was a kid everybody wanted to become an astronaut. Me? Not so much. But I knew that I would like to write songs about astronauts.
In kindergarten, everybody was singing songs about Yuri Gagarin. There were Russian soldier chorus singing on TV. It was cool.
Now, I have lived for 37 years and I finally know, which was the coolest space mission in space history. It was Apollo 8. They were shot in space in 1968, when USA and USSR were having their Space race. Gagarin had already been in space several years before. Yankees were step behind. There was a risk, that USSR could be the first ones to fly to the Moon and leave their red flag there. USA couldn’t wait. So, Apollo 8 was sent into space in an untested rocket (year before, whole crew burned in an accident, because somebody decided to blow a bit more oxygen in the cabin - it’s a stupid thing to do). And the whole mission plan was put together in rush.
But Apollo 8 carried this mission out brilliantly. If the return module’s engines had failed, they would be left stranded in orbit until they die. That would be the first grave in space. There was no other spacecraft that would come to rescue (Yuri Gagarin was already dead, by the way).
But the engines worked fine, so, there was a another problem - getting back in the atmosphere, because the slightest deviance in the angle would result in burning or spiraling out in orbit without the second chance to enter the atmosphere. Let me remind you, that this was 1968, when spaceships were simple like an old school bus without GPS and fancy electronics. The angle was determined by astronauts steering the ship. Lives of the astronauts were not of high value. It was a peak of Vietnam war. So, few Americans more or less...
The communication between Houston and the rocket was supported by a simple radio. And that’s it. The HQ on Earth knew only the facts provided by astronauts via radio (for example, the fact that they spotted Santa Claus). There were no online information from ship’s panels.
But the main accomplishment of Apollo 8 crew was the legendary Earthrise photo. For the first time, people saw the rising Earth over the stark lunar horizon. Nowadays, it’s a pretty common picture, but in 1968 it would be an equivalent of an alien interview on CNN.
By the way, Apollo 8 did not land on the Moon. They just flew around it and took some pictures. Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11 landed on the Moon a year later. I think, the “big step for a mankind” was just a small curtsy, if you compare it to the Apollo 8 mission.
This legendary Earthrise photo with Earth like a blue oasis in the middle of black nowhere made people realize, that we have only one planet, just a small speck of life, and we should take care of it.
Astronaut William Anders, who took this photo, actually breached the protocol and started taking pictures, when he should have been checking some stuff on the rocket. As he later said, he didn’t really care, because he realized that they are absolutely lonely up there in a tin can.
In the end, this mission inspired several environment funds and movements, and began some effort in regards of saving the planet. You do know were we are 50 years later. Guys, they did not get the message!
And William Anders later said: “We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”
So, this is my song about the astronauts, that I wanted to write in kindergarten.