A while back I retweeted a Vintage Space video about Apollo 8, mentioning that it is my favorite of the NASA Apollo missions.
Here are some of the reasons why it's my favorite...
First and foremost, it was the first time a manned mission left Earth orbit and went into translunar space. The three men of Apollo 8, Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and William Anders were the first to point their spacecraft away from Earth and truly go out into space. And they were relying on the Moon's gravity to capture them and keep the spacecraft from sailing out into deep space with no hope of return. Imagine knowing that you're going to do that, relying on engineers and 1960s-era computing power to get everything right. One mistake, one missed digit in the guidance computer and you sail past the Moon and into certain death. And these three men got on top of that rocket and did it.
In the process they became the first humans to leave Earth orbit, the first to orbit the Moon, the first to see the far side of the Moon (there is no dark side, that's not how orbits work), the first to see – and photograph – the Earthrise from the Moon, and, thankfully, the first to return from the Moon.
Second, the flight patch for Apollo 8 is perfect. It’s an eight looping around the Earth and the Moon in a simplified version of their flight plan. Jim Lovell sketched the insignia during a training flight and a Houston-area artist finalized it. It is one of those rare designs that seems so simple and yet so meaningful.
They saved Christmas!
You can see the Apollo 8 capsule in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. That is definitely on my must-see list.