Archive Letter: NASA sets a path to the Moon with Apollo 8 Apollo leader George Mueller approves the first manned lunar orbit

George Mueller, leader of the Apollo programme throughout the 1960s, had served as NASA’s associate administrator for manned space flight for five years when Apollo 8 launched on December 21st, 1968, as the second-ever human space flight carried out by the United States. Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of NASA’s proposal for Apollo 8 was that it would fly the same route to the moon as the later first lunar landing. In this letter – a daring directive from Mueller to Thomas Paine – a historic decision was made. As he writes, exactly one month after the launch of the Apollo 7 test flight, “I believe that NASA should undertake a lunar orbit mission as its next step toward the manned lunar landing.” Weeks later, piloted by a three-strong crew of astronauts who were the first to see Earth as a whole planet, Apollo 8 became NASA’s first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon.

NASA's letter confirming plans to fly to the moon for Apollo 8

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