December 2023: Reflecting on Apollo 8’s 55th Anniversary
December 21st, 2023, marks the 55th anniversary of the historic Apollo 8 mission (December 21–27, 1968), the first manned flight to the Moon. This momentous journey, undertaken by astronauts Lovell, Anders, and Borman, provided humanity with an unparalleled live, close-up view of the lunar surface and the inaugural comprehensive look at Earth from space.
Capturing the Awe: Apollo 8’s Iconic Photographs
The iconic photographs from Apollo 8, showcasing Earth as a blue and white watery world against the inky blackness of space. This includes the famous “Earthrise” over the lunar limb, were awe-inspiring. These images left a lasting impact and reignited enthusiasm for the manned space program. Subsequently, seven months later, Apollo 11 achieved the first manned lunar landing, fulfilling the dream of humanity setting foot on the moon.
Continued Lunar Exploration: A Necessity
Over the following years, humanity revisited the Moon six times. However, it’s been 16 years since the last lunar lander mission successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on December 19th. As we reflect on these milestones, it becomes evident that the exploration of the Moon has been a remarkable journey, emphasizing the ongoing need for future missions and endeavors in lunar exploration.
The Winter Solstice: A Cosmic Celebration
A Pagan Legacy: The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun
On Thursday, December 21, 2023, at 7:27 pm PST, we celebrate the Winter Solstice, which holds ancient roots as the birthday of the Unconquered Sun. While early Christians later associated it with the birth of Christ, astronomical evidence places it squarely in midwinter.
Traditions Transcending Centuries: Yule, Wassailing, and Mumming
In Britain and Northern Europe, Christmas adopted customs from the ancient Germanic midwinter feast of Yule. Wassailing, the Anglo-Saxon tradition of sharing a bowl of hot ale, apples, sugar, and nutmeg for mutual health, and mumming, a silent play in disguises with roots in fertility spirits, are traditions that have transcended centuries.
Chasing the Sun: Midwinter Fires and Universal Celebrations
The lighting of fires during midwinter, a tradition universal in the northern hemisphere, harks back to ancient practices. Great bonfires were lit on every hill to encourage the return of the slowly departing Sun. Even today, as a species, we continue to celebrate light with light, embracing our atavistic connection to the cosmos.
In essence, as we commemorate Apollo 8’s anniversary and revel in the traditions surrounding the Winter Solstice, we are reminded of our rich history, the marvels of space exploration, and the enduring cultural practices that bind us across time.