Deceased: Frank Borman, Apollo 8 astronaut who transmitted genes… | news report

Frank Borman, the astronaut who selected the first passages of Genesis to read during the first manned mission to orbit the Moon and concluded the Christmas Eve broadcast by asking God to bless everyone on “the good Earth” 240,000 miles away. deceased November 7 at the age of 95.

An estimated one billion people listened to the Apollo 8 astronauts read the Creation story in 1968. According to tv guideone in four humans on Earth turned on a television that night to watch Borman, James Lovell and William Anders circling 60 miles above the moon’s rocky surface.

The three men were the first to leave Earth’s orbit and reach humanity’s closest neighbor in space. The amazement of the moment was recognized with the reading of the first 10 verses of the King James Bible. The words excited many, sparked a bit of controversy, and confused those who couldn’t see the connection between the greatest scientific adventure of the modern era and an ancient religious text.

Borman, a lay Episcopal reader, said he was just trying to find something “appropriate” for the occasion.

“I am not a fundamentalist. I do not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible; “I believe in a liberal interpretation,” he explained to parade magazine the following year. “And I accept the biblical message from him: that God created the earth.”

Like many of the American astronauts in the space race with the Soviet Union, Borman saw the quest to land humans on the moon as a scientific and technological test, a patriotic competition, and also deeply religious. He echoed what others had said about the essential spiritual aspect of space exploration.

“I don’t know any man who could undertake this kind of journey without some faith,” Borman told reporters. “Or at least I couldn’t.”

Borman was born to Marjorie Ann and Edwin “Rusty” Borman in Gary, Indiana, on March 14, 1928. The family owned an auto shop and gas station, and Rusty built model airplanes. As soon as Frank was old enough, his father involved him in the hobby and enthusiastically encouraged his interest in flying.

Young Borman struggled with sinus infections caused by enlarged adenoids. He underwent several surgeries before he turned five and his family moved to Tucson for health reasons. Borman learned to fly in Arizona.

He was a star quarterback in high school, leading the Tucson High Badgers to state championship victory in 1946. He went on to the United States Military Academy at West Point, joined the US Air Force, and joined the US Air Force. In the U.S., he became a fighter pilot and flight instructor, and then earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering and returned to West Point in 1957 to teach.

There, for the first time, his attention was focused on space. That October, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth. A month later, the Russians launched Sputnik 2, a 1,100-pound spacecraft equipped with a telemetry system and radio transmitters and carrying a Moscow mixed-breed dog named Laika. The demonstration of Communist technological prowess shocked Americans, including Borman, who feared that the United States had been left behind in the arms race that would decide the ideological struggle for the fate of the world.

“There was a real Cold War back then, and it seemed like the Russians had a big advantage,” Borman said in a interview for an official NASA story. “To be honest, I had never thought about rockets or space before. …When they launched Sputnik, it was a real shock for me.”

Borman left the Air Force and joined NASA. He was assigned to Gemini 7 and given the mission to orbit the Earth for 14 days with co-pilot Jim Lovell so that NASA could measure human endurance, perform medical tests, and work out some of the details of spaceflight, such as the best ways of packaging food. and what to do with human waste.

In the days before the flight, Borman was overwhelmed by the thought that he might die in space. He turned to his faith for help. He was raised Episcopalian and remained in the church into adulthood. His Christianity was, by all indications, simple and faithful. He attended church and prayed regularly and, in the midst of his anxiety, he entrusted his wife and children to God and asked for strength to focus on the mission.

“I didn’t want to be a heroic victim in man’s conquest of space,” he recalled. “I wanted to be a living, breathing husband and father.”

Gemini 7 had several problems during its two-week mission. The astronauts had to deal with faulty thrusters and fuel cells. But the spacecraft returned safely to Earth after 206 revolutions and fell into the Atlantic Ocean. Borman said that he later realized that everything he cared about was on Earth.

The life-and-death risks of space travel became painfully clear to everyone two years later, when Apollo 1 caught fire during pre-launch testing and three astronauts died trying to escape the sealed command module. Borman was assigned to the investigation team to determine what went wrong. He stood up and looked at the burned shell of a spaceship. He listened over and over to the recording of his colleagues dying in the fire.


“We have fire in the cabin.”

“We have a serious fire.”

“Get us out of here now!”

Despite his own concerns, Borman defended the Apollo program to politicians who wanted to end it, including Walter Mondale and Donald Rumsfeld. He maintained that the goal of reaching the Moon before the Russians was worth the risk.

When it came time for Borman to return to space, NASA internally estimated that the mission had a 50-50 chance of success. Borman’s wife and children did not come to see him take off on Apollo 8.

As Borman prepared for that flight in 1968 (a process that included memorizing the 566 switches, 71 lights and 40 indicators so he could locate each one blindfolded), NASA deputy director of public information Julian Scheer told him He said you should probably plan something to say while you’re in orbit. The crew was scheduled to broadcast from the moon on Christmas Eve and were expected to have a large television audience; in fact, the largest I have ever heard a human voice. When Borman asked the public relations professional what he should say on the broadcast, the advice It was “something appropriate.”

Borman was impressed that the American government was not feeding him propaganda, as he thought the Soviet Union would do if a communist cosmonaut were the first to reach the moon. But he still didn’t know what to say. Everything he thought sounded trite.

He asked a Jewish friend named Simon Bourgin for help. Bourgin, a former news week The editor who had worked for President Lyndon Johnson turned to another friend, an official at the Budget Office. He didn’t know what to say either and asked his wife, Christine Laitin, that she had been a dancer and member of the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation.

Laitin suggested the astronauts “go back to the beginning” and read the Creation account in Genesis. The idea passed to Borman. He liked it and wrote it in the mission plan.

On December 24, as a camera showed the lunar surface passing under a window, the three astronauts read the Scriptures on a sheet of paper. Borman was last, closing with verses 9 and 10: “And God said, Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let dry land appear; and it was like that. And God called the dry land Earth; He called the gathering of the waters Seas; and God saw that he was good.”

Then he said: “On behalf of the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, Merry Christmas and may God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

In his retreat on a Montana ranch, Borman confessed In reality, he didn’t like the moon very much. Sometimes, she said, she would look up and attempt feeling that people seemed to think he should, but when he was up there, everything seemed desolate and gloomy and lonely. She had no desire to walk on the surface and she scoffed at those who dreamed of lunar colonies.

What moved Borman, spiritually, was the vision of the Earth.”growing”from the lunar horizon.

“It was,” he remembered, “the most beautiful and moving vision of my life, one that sent a torrent of nostalgia, of pure nostalgia, that washed over me. It was the only thing in the space that had color. Everything else was black or white. But not the Earth.”

The astronaut looked down and, like God, considered it good.

Borman was predeceased by his wife, Susan, in 2021. He is survived by his sons Frederick and Edwin Borman.

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