The Christmas Eve When Gideon Scriptures Orbited The Moon

Christmas Eve, 1968. The world had witnessed much turbulence during the year including the Vietnam War, student revolts in France, and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Yet on this December evening, in addition to celebrating the Savior’s birth, people were uniting as a historic event was unfolding live before the eyes of the largest TV audience in history at that point in time. Three astronauts – Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and William Anders – were aboard the Apollo 8 and broadcasting live pictures from a quarter of a million miles away as they orbited the moon. It was the first manned mission to leave the earth’s orbit.

Watch NASA’s film of that historic Apollo 8 broadcast reading from Genesis 1 on Christmas Eve, 1968.

About six weeks before the flight, NASA informed the astronauts they would be broadcasting live on Christmas Eve during their lunar orbit. According to Borman in an interview with Time magazine in 2008, “. . . the only instructions we got from NASA were to do something appropriate.”

So on that historic Christmas Eve, with the live camera aimed out the Apollo window and focused on the moon, the astronauts took turns reading aloud from Genesis, chapter 1.

Earlier, Service Testaments from The Gideons International had been approved for placement aboard Apollo 8. And while Service Testaments do not include the Old Testament we do know that they were in fact onboard Apollo 8 during that historic lunar broadcast.

There is also an amusing story related to the Apollo 8 and a Gideon Bible that has circulated for years, although its source is unverified.

The story goes like this:

A Japanese news correspondent covering the Apollo 8 mission was staying in a Houston hotel. He telephoned NASA Public Affairs to request a copy of “the speech” that the astronauts were reading. The Public Affairs official asked where the reporter was staying and then told him, “Open the desk drawer and you’ll find a book. Open the book to page one.”

The reporter followed the instructions, upon which he found a Gideon-placed Bible inside the desk drawer. He later reported, “NASA Public Affairs is very efficient . . . they had a mission transcript waiting in my hotel room.”

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