4.1.2 Apollo 8 Other Media

As part of their journey, the Apollo 8 crew made a number of short live TV broadcasts to Earth. The first broadcast on the 22nd did show Earth but was overexposed, though photographs from it did appear in the following day’s newspapers. The most famous of the broadcasts is the Christmas Day broadcast made while rounding the moon, in which the crew took turns to read out a number of verses from Genesis. Clips from these broadcasts are viewable at the Honeysuckle Creek website.

Two clips from the Honeysuckle Creek website are of interest, as they show images of Earth. The 2nd  TV transmission shown was carried out at 19:53 on December 23rd, and it is possible to capture a screenshot of the Earth from that and compare it with the ESSA 7 and ATS-3 data . The ATS-3 image was taken at 18:16 GMT – just over 90 minutes before the TV broadcast. Honeysuckle Creek have done their own image showing the orientation of the Earth at that time (figure 4.1.64).

Figure 4.1.64: Honeysuckle Creek interpretation of terminator position during live TV broadcast

The screenshot and associated ESSA images are in figure 4.1.65.

Figure 4.1.65: Live TV screen capture compared with ESSA 7 image from 23/12/68

The TV image is overexposed, but weather systems in both Hemispheres are identifiable, and are clearly the same as those identified on the still image discussed in figure 4.1.12.

The broadcast of Earth from space made headline news around the world, but two interesting front pages are from the Long Beach Independent and Minneapolis Tribune of 24/12/68. Figure 4.1.66 shows these front pages, with the same weather systems in 4.1.12 identified (only one image has been arrowed for the sake of simplicity).

Figure 4.1.66: Front pages of the Long Beach Independent (top) and Minneapolis Tribune (bottom) source:  newspaperarchive.com  and blogspot.

The newspapers were published on the 24th, and therefore can only have been taken from the TV broadcast on the 23rd. It could not have been produced from ESSA satellites imagery as the image for the 23rd would not have been completed until the 24th, by which time the newspapers would have been in production. The TV image can only have been broadcast from space on the 23rd. The ATS-3 image could, in theory, have been available, but the polar areas are missing and the angle of view, location of the terminator line, and weather systems visible on the western limb are different.

Another image is also available of the TV broadcast in the form of the image shown below (figure 4.1.67), available from the Facebook site Retro Space Images.

Figure 4.1.67: Mission Control during the TV broadcast of 23/12/68

A zoomed and cropped image of the large monitor screen (figure 4.1.68) shows that the image on the screen (and on every monitor visible) is the same as the one on the newspaper front page, which, in turn, is an exact match of the satellite photos from the same date.

Figure 4.1.68: Zoomed & cropped image from the mission control photograph in figure 4.1.67. Colours as in figure 4.1.66

Comparing this with the ESSA mosaic is a relatively straightforward business once it is realised that the film sequence used in the original video is the wrong way round - the camera was mounted so that it filmed using a mirror pointing outside.

More importantly, the Earth orbit insertion at 13:00 on the 21st was still several hours before this area was covered by the ESSA satellite. There is no ATS image for this date, but the evidence from ESSA clearly matches the Apollo video. The fact that it is a moving image, not a static photograph and complete with lumps of space hardware spinning in micro-gravity, is also an excellent refutation of the suggestion that the images were faked.

Scattered through the remainder of the 16mm video footage are many small clips of Earth, some of which are recorded over only a few frames and are therefore difficult to catch. The majority of them can be linked very easily to photographs as shown below.

While broadcasting the view, Lovell describes the view to Capcom Michael Collins:

“What you're seeing, Mike, is a - Houston, what you are seeing is the Western Hemisphere. Looking at the top is the North Pole; in the center - just lower to the center is South America - all the way down to Cape Horn. I can see Baja California and the southwestern part of the United States. There's a big, long cloud bank going northeast, covers a lot of the Gulf of Mexico, going up to the eastern part of the United States, and it appears now that the east coast is cloudy. I can see clouds over parts of Mexico; the parts of Central America are clear. And we can also see the white, bright spot of the subsolar point on the light side of the Earth.”


“Okay. For colors, the waters are all sort of a royal blue; clouds, of course, are bright white; the reflection off the Earth is - appears much greater than the Moon. The land areas are generally a brownish - sort of dark brownish to light brown in texture. Many of the vortices of clouds can be seen of the various weather cells, and a long band of - it appears cirrus clouds that extend from the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico going straight out across the Atlantic. The terminator, of course, cuts through the Atlantic Ocean right now, going from north to south. [The] southern hemisphere is almost completely clouded over, and up near the North Pole there is quite a few clouds. Southwestern Texas and southwestern United States is clear. I'd say there are some clouds up in the northwest and over in the northeast portion.”


“I can pick out the southwest coastline of the Gulf and where Houston should be, and also the mouth of the Mississippi; I can see Baja California and that particular area. I'm using a monocular which we have aboard.”

Unsurprisingly, this is an entirely accurate description of what is evident from the satellite photographs.

As well as broadcasting TV, Apollo 8 also took 16mm images of Earth. The first recorded view of Earth is at roughly the same time as the SIV-B separation (16:11 GMT), as some of the SIV-B panels can be seen tumbling towards the Earth. By taking several screenshots from the video (available here) a substantial portion of the Earth’s disk can be assembled into a single image. This is shown in figure 4.1.70.

Figure 4.1.70: Composite of several screenshots from Apollo 8 16mm footage.

a: Compared with AS08-16-2593 - see figure 4.1.2

b: Compared with AS08-16-2596 - see figure 4.1.4

c: Compared with AS08-16-2597.- see figure 4.1.6

d: Compared with AS08-16-2606 - see figure 4.1.19

e: Compared with AS08-16-2599 - see figure 4.1.8

f: Compared with AS08-16-2608 - see figure 4.1.20

g: compared with AS08-15-2562 - see figure 4.1.41

Figure 4.1.72 Montage of screenshots from 16mm footage compared with ESSA satellite mosaics dated 26/12/68, with Stellarium indication at Earth at time of filming.

The weather systems are evidently those shown in the ESSA image, but how can we be certain that the image was taken at 16:55 on the 26th, particularly as the most reliable indicator of time (the terminator) is obscured? We can get an approximate timeframe for the image by comparing it with figure 4.1.47 (AS08-15-2574) and figure 4.1.51 (AS08-15-2576). The former’s time has been determined as 16:00, the latter at 21:00.

This gives us a good start, but more reliable still is the mission report and mission transcript.

"For this flight, a special adapter allowed the 16mm sequence camera to be attached to the command module sextant"

allowing for colour filming.

"During transearth coast, sextant photographs were taken of the Moon at about 123 hours and of the Earth at 124 hours. Although the range is too great for accurate horizon analysis, the appearance of the Earth through the red tinting of the landmark line of sight should be an effective familiarisation aid for future crews."

The video footage immediately before the Earth shot is of a reddish tinted Moon, there is a reddish cast to the Earth in the montage, and the circular border would be that of the sextant. The exact timing, and the time used in the Stellarium image, is confirmed in the transcript. At 5d4h4m, or 124:04 hours MET, or 16:55, we get the following comment in response to a request from Capcom to change the CSM orientation:

“That’s fine. We are going to stay in for about 2 more seconds while Jim takes a picture through the sextant for the optics people”

Is the time correct? The answer is obvious from the landmasses visible in the montage. South America is in shot on the western limb, with the Pacific ocean off Chile just discernible west of the cloud mass arrowed in green. The west coast of north Africa is just visible on the eastern edge of the picture, but the remainder of the continent (and the terminator) are hidden by the sextant’s edge.

For the final look at other media we return to TV. The second TV broadcast examined here is the 6th TV transmission, which started at 20:36 on the 26th, some 3 hours after the ESSA track was taken.  The ESSA image is presented with a screenshot from that broadcast in figure 4.1.73a. 4.1.73b shows wire images for the press that clearly identify the date of transmission. Figure 4.1.73c shows a Washington Post front page dated the following day.

Figure 4.1.73a: ESSA-7 image from 26/12/68 compared with TV broadcast from the same date.

The press images are centred on South America, and there is a clearly defined band of cloud along the east coast. The upper left of the image is North America, most of which is obscured by clouds.

The terminator line is just crossing Brazil, and Stellarium confirms that this is exactly where the terminator should be (figure 4.1.74).

Figure 4.1.74: Stellarium indication of time at terminator

While the TV screenshot is not as sharp as the Apollo photographs, and much of the ESSA clouds are not as clearly visible as those on Earth, it is still possible to discern unique systems that mark it out as having been taken specifically on the 26th, notably a small system off the coast of New York (identified with the blue marker) that is not there on the 25th.

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Having looked at video and still evidence with satellite meteorology, can we get meaningful comparisons with traditional meteorological records?

Figure 4.1.71 - Screenshots from 16mm footage compared with still images -  images have been zoomed & cropped

Figure 4.1.73b: Press wire photograph from 26/12/68 showing TV image from the last TV broadcast (Image is from eBay, copyrighted Historic Images) together with my personal copy of the same image. Both images are upside down.

We also have TV footage of mission control during this TV broadcast (Moon Machines), and if we look carefully we can see the same TV broadcast can be seen on a monitor, with the same clouds – see figure 4.1.69.

Figure 4.1.69: Mission control during Apollo 8's TV broadcast

In all cases each screenshot can be matched with a still photograph taken, often at the same time. Some adjustment had to be made to figures 4.1.68c, f, g as these images were all reversed, indicating that they had been filmed using the mirror pointing out of the CSM window.

A couple of the shots appear to have been taken at slightly different times compared with the still images. Figure 4.1.70b, for example looks to have been taken slightly later than its still photograph equivalent, and 4.1.70d seems to be about 2 hours later than the still.

All of the stills are definitely moving images, with some filmed for several seconds, and all of them can be shown to match the weather systems on the Earth on the day they were filmed.

A slightly longer shot can be found later in the video (35:46). It shows a slow pan over a view of Earth that fills quite a lot of the frame and appears after a shot of a distant Moon. By taking a few separate screenshots, and removing the circular framing along the Earth’s eastern limb, we can produce a composite image showing the complete area covered by the pan. This is shown in figure 4.1.72, together with the relevant meteorological data. How we selected the relevant data will be discussed shortly.

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Figure 4.1.73c: Washington Post front page dated December 27th.