Frank Borman only flew to space twice, but both flights were major milestones in the history of human spaceflight. In 1965, he and Jim Lovell flew for nearly 14 days aboard Gemini 7, proving that humans could function for long periods of time in the absence of gravity. Borman, Lovell and Bill Anders orbited the moon on Christmas Eve 1968 aboard Apollo 8 on the first human mission beyond low Earth orbit, an essential step toward the landing of Apollo 11 eight months later.
There was lesser known, but no less vital, mission that Borman undertook that was every bit as essential to the success of Project Apollo. The anniversary of a key event in that mission was earlier this month. Borman, who turned 94 last month, recounted the story in his autobiography, “Countdown.”
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
On the last Friday in January 1967, Frank Borman took a break from a punishing schedule of traveling from Houston to Project Apollo contractors in Massachusetts and California to spend some quality time with his family. He took his wife, Susan, and their two sons to a cottage on a lake near Huntsville, Texas, owned by family friends. In the era cell phones, there were only landlines. Since the phone number at the cottage was unlisted, Borman was looking forward to two uninterrupted of relaxation.
The contrast was jarring. In one browser window, two NASA astronauts were making their way to the International Space Station (ISS) after the first orbital launch of a crew from U.S. soil in nearly 9 years.
In another window, scenes of chaos played out as protests over the death of George Floyd after his arrest by Minneapolis police erupted into violent clashes across the country.
By Bob Granath NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
“Apollo 8. You are Go for TLI.”
With these cryptic words spoken on Dec. 21, 1968, NASA’s Mission Control gave the crew of Apollo 8 approval for TLI — trans-lunar injection — permission to become the first humans to leave Earth orbit. Their destination, 234,000 miles away, was the Moon.
Parabolic Arc would like to extend belated birthday wishes to Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, who both celebrated their 90th birthdays this month. Lovell’s birthday was Sunday, and Borman celebrated his latest trip around the sun on March 14.
The two nonagenarians, who were crew mates on Gemini 7 and Apollo 8, are the oldest of the surviving Apollo astronauts. The rest of their compatriots are all in the 80’s.
NASA astronaut Richard “Dick” Gordon, who died on Monday at the age of 88, was the third Apollo-era astronaut to pass away this year and the second who was involved in a lunar mission.
Gordon was command module pilot for Apollo 12, which saw Pete Conrad and Alan Bean walk on the moon in November 1969. Gordon stayed in orbit aboard aboard the command service module Yankee Clipper while his colleagues explored the lunar surface. It was the second and final spaceflight for Gordon, who flew aboard Gemini 10 with Conrad three years earlier.