Today (Dec. 21) marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission, which launched from what was then Cape Kennedy on this day in 1968. The vitally important mission, the second crewed one of the Apollo program, was the first to orbit the moon, giving us the iconic “Earthrise” photo.
Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders—the first humans to view the far side of the moon with their own eyes—didn’t just take that single photo. They shot several magazines of film now all available to see online as part of the Apollo Archive Collection.
While the astronauts spent plenty of time turning the camera on each other and capturing themselves during other missions, the Apollo 8 archive images focus on what was outside their capsule. Photos of the slowly shrinking sight of Earth, a rocket stage floating in space, and the moon at the closest range any humans had ever come—not as famous as “Earthrise”—capture the weight of the historical moment. Humans would land on the room the next year in the Apollo 11 mission.