Homeward Bound

Apollo 8 CSM near the Moon, pointed at Earth

Painting Completed 1994
19 x 17 1/2 inches, Acrylic on Aircraft Plywood

It was Christmas morning, 1968, and Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders had been gently swinging around the Moon for 20 hours. They were the first human beings to leave the gravitational pull of the Earth and to see the Moon close up. But, now, it was time to burn the service module engine and kick the spacecraft out of lunar orbit to begin a 58-hour, coasting voyage home.

Because of the laws of orbital mechanics, this trans-Earth injection burn had to be performed on the side of the Moon opposite the Earth, thus out of communication with all of us here on Earth. We did not know if the burn was a success or failure until they came into view of NASA's big antennas.

As an astronaut I was all too aware that this was only the second flight of a brand-new spacecraft, and that its systems had to perform perfectly. There was no backup for the main rocket engine. If it did not work right, Frank, Jim and Bill could remain in lunar orbit forever.

I painted the Apollo 8 spaceship as it emerged from behind the Moon this last time, with the welcome voice of Jim Lovell announcing, "Please be informed, there is a Santa Claus".

Bill Anders would comment during their last telecast as they hurried toward their rendezvous with Earth, "I think I must have the feeling that the travelers in the old sailing ships used to have going on a very long voyage away from home; and now we're headed back. I have a feeling of being proud of the trip, but still happy to be going back home".