Eleven-and-a-half minutes after leaving the ground, Apollo 8 is circling the Earth at 17,000 miles an hour. Then, an unprecedented and momentous event: the third stage engine re-lights and sends Apollo 8 out of Earth orbit toward the Moon. It’s a daring maneuver NASA calls T.L.I., or “trans-lunar injection.”
How NASA’s Apollo 8 Left Earth’s Orbit
Published: March 27, 2019
Onscreen: In December 1968, Apollo 8 lifts off. For the first time, humans will attempt to leave Earth's orbit.
Narrator Eleven-and-a-half minutes after leaving the ground, Apollo 8 is moving 17,000 miles an hour, circling the earth. Then, an unprecedented and momentous event: the third stage engine will re-light, and send Apollo 8 out of Earth orbit toward the moon. It’s a maneuver NASA calls T.L.I., “trans-lunar injection.”
Mike Collins: “Trans-lunar injection?” It sounds like some sort of a medical device.
Narrator: Astronaut Michael Collins is CAPCOM, the one person in Mission Control who speaks directly to the astronauts.
Collins: I mean, I love NASA, but they have an ability to transform, sometimes, the ethereal into the mundane.
Narrator: In this moment, Michael Collins has the honor of announcing a turning point in human history.
Collins: I said to them, “Apollo 8, you’re “GO” for T.L.I.”
(File Footage): Apollo 8, you are “GO” for T.L.I., over.
And Borman said, “Roger, Houston.”
Frank Borman: (File Footage): Roger, understand, we’re “GO” for T.L.I.
Collins: That was it. I just really wish I had that moment to live over again, because I would have said to them, “Apollo 8, you can now slip the surly bonds of Earth, and dance the sky, Apollo 8! Dance the sky. You go,” is what I would have said to them, instead of, “You’re cleared for T.L.I.”
NARRATOR: The words may be mundane, but the meaning is profound.
David Mindell: It was the first time that any human beings entered the gravitational field of another planetary body besides the one that we evolved on.
Apollo's Daring Mission
Directed by: Kirk Wolfinger
Produced by: Sue Norton, Rushmore DeNooyer
Digital Producers: Olivia Schmidt, Arlo Perez
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2018