- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Frank Borman preparing for the Apollo 8 launch.
Frank Borman, born in 1928, emerged as one of the most influential figures in the history of space exploration. As a test pilot, astronaut, and commander of the groundbreaking Apollo 8 mission, Borman’s career spanned the heights of the Cold War space race.
Former NASA astronaut Frank Borman passed away on November 7 in Billings, Montana, at the age of 95. The 1968 Apollo 8 mission—humanity’s first mission around the Moon—set the stage for the subsequent moon landings. His dedication to space exploration and his leadership skills were pivotal in advancing NASA’s mission during one of the most dynamic, and at times tumultuous, periods in American space history.
On September 17, 1962, the Manned Spacecraft Center of NASA in Houston showcased nine new crew members. In the front row, from left to right, are Charles Conrad, Frank Borman, Neil Armstrong, and John Young. The back row includes Elliott See, James McDivitt, James Lovell, Edward White, and Thomas Stafford.
“Frank began his career as an officer with the U.S. Air Force,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “His love of flying proved essential through his positions as a fighter pilot, operational pilot, test pilot, and assistant professor. His exceptional experience and expertise led him to be chosen by NASA to join the second group of astronauts.”
Borman was the commander of the 1965 Gemini 7 mission, the first of his two spaceflights. Gemini 7, which included Jim Lovell, was notable for its long-duration flight, lasting nearly 14 days—a record at the time. This mission was part of NASA’s Gemini program, which helped develop techniques for future Apollo missions.
This photo shows the Gemini 7 spacecraft, captured from Gemini 6, while they were about 160 miles (257 kilometers) above Earth. Gemini 6, crewed by Walter Schirra and Thomas Stafford, and Gemini 7 launched on December 15 and December 4, 1965, respectively. The two spacecraft successfully performed joint maneuvers in orbit for a day.
Desert survival training
From left to right: Frank Borman, Neil Armstrong, John Young, and Deke Slayton during desert survival training at Stead Air Force Base in Nevada on August 13, 1964.
The Apollo 8 crew
The Apollo 8 crew, consisting of Commander Borman, Lunar Module Pilot William Anders, and Command Module Pilot Lovell, posing in front of the Apollo mission simulator during their training in November 1968.
“Are you confident in us?”
This image shows the charred interior of the Apollo 1 Command Module; Apollo astronauts Gus Grissom (the second U.S. citizen to reach space), Edward White (the first U.S. citizen to perform a spacewalk) and Roger Chaffee lost their lives during a routine training exercise, the result of a flash fire. The disaster prompted an investigation, during which Borman testified in Congress. In response to a question about NASA’s future safety measures, Borman answered: “We are trying to tell you that we are confident in our management, and in our engineering, and in ourselves. I think the question is really: Are you confident in us?”
Time to go to the Moon
The Apollo 8 crew depart KSC’s Manned Spacecraft Operations building during the Apollo 8 pre-launch countdown.
The Saturn V carrying the Apollo 8 crew launched on December 21, 1968. The mission marked the first time the Saturn V rocket was used to send humans into space. At the time, Saturn V was the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, and its successful operation in a crewed mission was critical to the future of the Apollo program. This launch demonstrated the reliability and capability of the rocket that would eventually take astronauts to the lunar surface. Also, Apollo 8 tested critical aspects of space travel, such as navigation, communication, and life support systems, far away from Earth.
Apollo 8 and Artemis 2 are analog missions. Scheduled to launch in late 2024, the four-person crew of Artemis 2, launching from NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, will, like Apollo 8, venture around the Moon to test technologies and systems in advance of Artemis 3—the first crewed lunar landing since the Apollo era.
Borman in space
Borman is seen here during in-cabin activities while orbiting the Moon. This image was created from a movie filmed with a 16mm camera onboard the spacecraft.
The Apollo 8 mission produced spectacular images of the Moon’s surface, including these craters, imaged on December 24, 1968. The Apollo 8 lunar flybys were pivotal in space exploration history, marking the first time humans orbited another celestial body, a feat that advanced NASA’s grasp of deep space navigation, while also aiding in our understanding of lunar geography. These flybys, in which the crew orbited the Moon 10 times over a span of 20 hours, laid the groundwork for the Apollo 11 moon landing, serving as a crucial test of the technologies and strategies needed for a successful lunar mission.
The Earthrise photo, taken on December 24, 1968, remains the most enduring image of the mission and is one of the most iconic photographs in history.
Apollo 8 recovery
The Apollo 8 crew are pictured here at the doorway of a recovery helicopter on the U.S.S. Yorktown after their pioneering lunar orbit mission. The capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean around 994 miles (1,600 kilometers) from Hawaii on December 27, 1968.
The command module
A view of the Apollo 8 command module aboard Yorktown. The recovery of the Apollo 8 astronauts marked a significant achievement in space exploration, as it concluded the first crewed mission to orbit the Moon—a major milestone in the race to a crewed lunar landing. This successful recovery demonstrated NASA’s capability to conduct complex space missions, paving the way for future lunar explorations.
A true pioneer
This photo shows the Apollo 8 astronauts at the Apollo 8 Gala at the San Diego Air & Space Museum on December 10, 2008. Borman left NASA in 1970, turning his attention to aviation and becoming Eastern Air Lines’ CEO. He also engaged in civic and charitable work.
“Frank knew the power exploration held in uniting humanity when he said, ‘Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit’,” said Nelson in his commemorative statement. “His service to NASA and our nation will undoubtedly fuel the Artemis Generation to reach new cosmic shores.”
An interesting man who led a very interesting life; his legacy in American history is firmly secured.
More from Gizmodo