Nasa / Space optimize

Geek Trivia: What onboard Christmas gifts did the Apollo 8 astronauts leave famously unopened?

Apollo 8 was the first spaceflight crew to open Christmas gifts in space -- except they did not open all of them. Why not?

The Apollo 8 manned moon mission holds a number of distinctions in spaceflight history. It was the first manned spaceflight to leave Earth's orbit. It was also the first manned mission to orbit the moon. Perhaps most memorably, Apollo 8 was the first time in history human beings celebrated the Christmas holiday somewhere other than planet Earth.

On Dec. 21, 1968, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders were launched into space. Three days later -- Christmas Eve, 1968 -- they entered lunar orbit. Over the course of 20 hours, the crew of Apollo 8 proceeded to circle our nearest satellite 10 times. A portion of Apollo 8's cislunar stay was broadcast on live television on Christmas Eve, to what was then the largest TV audience of all time. (They also, somewhat controversially, read verses from the Book of Genesis during the broadcast. The backlash from said reading led to NASA downplaying the religious context of any future missions.)

The next evening, Christmas Day, the crew was directed by Mission Control to open a discretionary cargo package from the food locker. To their surprise, the package contained a Christmas dinner of real (not freeze-dried) turkey and stuffing. Accompanying this feast were small presents from the astronauts' wives, smuggled aboard by Flight Director Deke Slayton. The crew remarked on the generosity of the gesture, but nonetheless left certain gifts from the "Christmas Surprise" intentionally and conspicuously unopened -- making them some of the most sought-after space collectibles of all time.

WHAT ONBOARD CHRISTMAS GIFTS DID THE CREW OF APOLLO 8 LEAVE FAMOUSLY UNOPENED?

Get the answer.

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Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

14 comments
crcgraphix
crcgraphix

. . . cold, and not fresh and steamy by the time the Apollo 8 crew had gotten to it. But then you never know the wives of the astronauts being so smart themselves in so many ways, they'd probably put a hot box inside the present to keep the turkey and stuffing nice and warm!

jpnagle59
jpnagle59

I met these great men after about 3 years from that flight. They all seemed to me to be a very level headed gentlemen...but there was an underlying sense of humor with these guys...One said to me after I asked the question--'...what would you have done if something had gone wrong on the Apollo 8 flight that would have prevented you from coming back home?...' He smiled and said...'...we had special rocket fuel to do one of two things, zoom our way back to Earth...or take a one way trip to Mars...it's classified son...'.......I wonder if the Brandy was the 'secret' fuel?... I do hope it was the good stuff...

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Who can say they spent Christmas visiting lunar orbit! Now that you've made me think about it there will be no complaints from me about holiday travel... I too do not drink alcohol in dangerous environments, such as one's in-laws house. :)

sboverie
sboverie

It was a smart choice to forgo the brandy on the circumlunar mission. I don't know what the cabin pressure was but if the pressure was equal to the pressure at 12,000 feet then the effects of alcohol tends to be stronger than sea level. Brandy might have interacted with the sleeping pills they were taking to sleep. I remember the quibble from who forced the LHC to shutdown, the trespasser was from the future and trying to stop a "chocolate, communist hell hole" from happening in our future. Sounds a bit more like a weird Star Trek episode where the crew go back in time to study the event of a near nuclear war.

morris.levy
morris.levy

Smart guys don't drink (a lot). They chose to go to the moon, and not to open some alcohol.

nijineko
nijineko

The possibility of free floating liquid in outer space has potentially dire consequences. Does anyone know if the brandy was contained in a zero-G safe container or not? If not, that might explain why they chose not to risk it.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

John Young and Gus Grissom were penalized during a Gemini mission for smuggling their own food aboard. You eat what NASA gives you or you suffer the consequences!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

For me it's Eat Nothing, Drink Nothing... and Breathe Only If You Must. It's not always nice to feel wanted... dead. :p

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

"Guys, I think NASA is trying to kill us".

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

You just switch the thrusters to manual, then commence a two-minute burn for the duration of sipping your brandy :) This is, after all, rocket science - not brain surgery.

tr
tr

One wonders what Deke was thinking... although pilots breaking the rules is par for the course. I've sure broken my share. BTW, I've tried using the contact form twice to send a private message and get a bounce from CNet each time. Logged in and all. What gives?

jlholmes21
jlholmes21

They should have opened it but then again its Nasa....

tcavadias
tcavadias

me a copy of the bounced message (tammy.cavadias AT cbs DOT com) - also how were you trying to contact them? Thanks! -Tammy [_]3

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

It's broken in very ... interesting ... ways. Like, I have about fifty contacts, and about half have me as a contact as well, but I only have 8 people available for peer mail. And many people ask me why I don't have the option to allow peer mail checked, but I do, I really do have it checked. And the best part, I have received a PM from a member that I can't PM back, and that should be impossible, right?