On December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 departed for the moon’s orbit. According to the History Channel website, Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, Jr., and William Anders aboard.
On Christmas Eve, the astronauts entered into orbit around the moon, the first manned spacecraft ever to do so. During Apollo 8‘s 10 lunar orbits, television images were sent back home, and spectacular photos were taken of Earth and the moon from the spacecraft. In addition to being the first human beings to view firsthand their home world in its entirety, the three astronauts were also the first to see the dark side of the moon.
On Christmas morning, Apollo 8 left its lunar orbit and began its journey back to Earth, landing safely in the Pacific Ocean on December 27. For more information, visit the History Channel website at http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/apollo-8-departs-for-moons-orbit.