When we were brave and dreamed big

When’s the last time you were in awe because of our ability to dream big?

Tonight is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 orbit of the moon. No human had ever seen its dark far side, and no human had ever seen an earthrise, as captured by the famous picture, which some credit with propelling the environmental movement.

“It’s ironic we went to explore the moon, and what we really discovered was the earth,” astronaut Bill Anders tells CBS’ Sunday Morning.

Photo: NASA

Three astronauts climbed aboard the capsule three days earlier, which sat atop a bomb — rocket — that had only been tested for the job twice, and on the previous test, there were major problems.

But we were the home of the brave.

“If you talk to many astronauts of the time, many of them will tell you that Apollo 8 was the single most important daring and dangerous mission NASA ever flew,” says Robert Kurson, author of Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon.

“It was a bold move — there was some risk to it. But it was a time when we made bold moves,” Jim Lovell, one of the astronauts said.

1968 was one of the worst years in American history. We’d assassinated a civil rights leader and a man who would be president. The cops beat up protesters in Chicago. We elected a man, we’d come to learn later, who worked the back channels as a candidate to scuttle a peace deal in Vietnam the sitting president had worked out because it would hurt his candidacy.

When Frank Borman, now the oldest living astronaut at 90 and the Apollo 8 commander, got home, someone sent him a telegram. “Thanks for saving 1968,” it reportedly said.