Christmas Eve 1968: Gideon-Placed New Testaments Orbit The Moon

by Kevin Mcintosh on December 24, 2010


Watch NASA’s film of that historic Apollo 8 broadcast reading from Genesis 1 on Christmas Eve, 1968.

Christmas Eve, 1968.

It had been a turbulent year in U.S. history. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King had both been assassinated. Twelve hundred Americans a month were dying in the Vietnam War.

Yet on this evening, in addition to celebrating the Savior’s birth, the country was uniting as a historic event was unfolding live before the eyes of the largest TV audience in history at that point in time. Three U.S. astronauts – Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and William Anders – were aboard the Apollo 8 and broadcasting live pictures from a quarter of a million miles away as they orbited the moon. It was the first manned mission to leave the earth’s orbit.

About six weeks before the flight, NASA informed the astronauts they would be broadcasting live on Christmas Eve during their lunar orbit. According to Borman in an interview with Time magazine in 2008, “. . . the only instructions we got from NASA were to do something appropriate.”

Apollo 8 Postage Stamp

A US Postage Stamp commemorates the historic Christmas Eve 1968 Apollo broadcast

So on that historic Christmas Eve, with the camera aimed out the Apollo window and focused on the moon, the astronauts took turns reading aloud from Genesis, chapter 1.

Earlier, Service Testaments from The Gideons International had been approved for placement aboard Apollo 8. And while Service Testaments do not include the Old Testament (Bibles distributed by The Gideons International however do), we do know that Service Testaments were in fact onboard Apollo 8 during that historic lunar broadcast.

There is another story related to the Apollo 8 and a Gideon Bible that has circulated for years, although its source is unverified.

The story goes like this:

A Japanese news correspondent covering the Apollo 8 mission was staying in a Houston hotel. He telephoned NASA Public Affairs to request a copy of “the speech” that the astronauts were reading. The Public Affairs official asked where the reporter was staying and then told him, “Open the desk drawer and you’ll find a book. Open the book to page one.”

The reporter followed the instructions, upon which he found a Gideon Bible inside the desk drawer. He later reported, “NASA Public Affairs is very efficient . . . they had a mission transcript waiting in my hotel room.”

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Taylor December 26, 2010 at 8:53 pm

God is truly wondrous.

May His Word be shared freely around the world with all peoples.

In Christ’s Service,
Jim Taylor

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Jim Stahler December 26, 2010 at 11:50 pm

That was a wonderful story. The astronauts knew that God is in charge, but the reporter must learn. If he just learns to connect the dots he will know that God placed that Bible there for him. God’s word is all around us if we just take the time to listen.

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Jim Randall December 28, 2010 at 5:27 pm

I see the moon, stars and planets and marvel that a God so big could care so much for something so small as earth. Yet He does! When I look to the sky at night I rejoice in a Creator who was willing to send His Son to be born and to die in our place, to restore a relationship between man and God, between the created and the creator. We are wonderfully and fearfully made. This scripture in Genesis narrows it down for us. I remember the reading found here on this page, even though it was 42 years ago, even though I was only 14 years old. I am as impressed now as I was then. Thank you, Gideons, for many faithful years of placing the Good Word where we can find it when we need it!

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Earl Visser December 31, 2010 at 4:51 pm

I was able to read (and appreciate) this event after being in too big a hurry for the past 42 years. God has given me time to listen to his wonderful creation, by reading/viewing this event.

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Josephvemu January 10, 2011 at 11:51 am

The Gideons International: forwarding the word of God to the doorstep of all the people for their redemption.

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wc5v February 12, 2011 at 2:07 am

Isn’t God wonderful……always has what we need at every moment in time. Liberal judges would ban this reading in today’s time. May God help us.

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Frank Rickman March 1, 2011 at 8:10 pm

I remember watching that broadcast as a teenager. It just reminds me that God has always been in the “backround” of my life. So glad I finally asked Christ into my life many years later. Our God is an awesome God. Glory to His Name.

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Wayne Robbins April 30, 2011 at 7:14 am

I was 14 years old but I remember the Christmas Eve of 1968! My father, mother, sister, and I watched the Apollo 8 mission! I remember my mother opening the Holy Bible (KJV) and reading Geneis. She read it to us because our TV reception was not very good. I wanted to see the universe that God created so I would up look at the night sky and dream about it. If we saw an airplane, my father would say wonder how close could we get Heaven on that thing!
My grandfather moved closed to us, during moving we found an old Gideon Testament that belonged to his friend that had been killed in WWII! He gave it to me and I still have it, today! During Vietnam war, I joined the US Air Force in 1972. I always look for Gideon Bible when I traveled. God had plans for me but I never dreamed of all blessings that was stored up for me. My greatest honor in life to serve God in the Gideons Mission International by witnessing and speaking to further the Word of God! Sincerely in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour!

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JOSE PAULINO (GIDEON - Brazil) June 19, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Glory to the Lord Jesus!

I’m from in Brazil. In 1968 I had not even yet born.

Four years ago I’m a International Gideon (I am honored by the Lord because He chose me to be a Gideon).
It’s very good to know these histories.

JOSE PAULINO
Mossoro-leste
RN-Brazil

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Gerry Kangas September 28, 2011 at 1:04 pm

1968, I was living in Bolivia, and communicated by Amatuer Radio, CP1HW, with the astronauts, and received their QSL card, confirmation. As a Gideon for 41 years, how blessed to know that the word of God through the Gideon NT has now been placed in 194 countries, and the Moon. (M0ON) call sign.
73’s

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Janie October 29, 2011 at 9:02 pm

I love the Story.

Jesus Christ (Creator God) and The Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, is still the most Precious and Meaningful conversation and Story ever told. God will see to it that His Words come to pass. His Words are Alive and Powerful; World events will happen just as He has Said in His Word. Just Watch Him. Satan will not destroy the True Church of Jesus Christ. Gideons will continue providing the message of Salvation through Jesus Christ, alone, in efforts to win men and women, boys and girls to the Lord Jesus Christ. Hell was originally prepared only for Satan and his angels. Faith in Christ and His shed blood through the work of the Cross, can keep the rest of us out and away from the tortures of hell and loss of God’s loving Grace. Love Him and Look for His soon appearance.

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Jim Browning November 13, 2011 at 9:37 am

It’s amazing…..even after 42 years, that transcript is still available in those hotel rooms.

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Michael Butler December 25, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Times sure have changed. What a breath of fresh air to hear the Word of God read over the airwaves. I just listened to a Christmas address from Ronald Reagan in 1981. It was so powerful to hear our President speak of Jesus Christ with such love and adoration. Bless God, America. Jesus is the reason for the season.

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