Two lunar craters named in honour of Apollo 8 mission

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The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named two lunar craters to honour NASA’s Apollo 8 spacecraft, 50 years after the historic voyage carried three astronauts into orbit around the moon for the first time in 1968. Named “8 Homeward” and “Anders’ Earthrise”, both craters are visible in the iconic earthrise colour photograph image shot by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, the IAU said in a statement on Friday.

The image depicts the moment that our shiny blue Earth came back into view as the spacecraft emerged out of the dark from behind the grey and barren Moon. “This is arguably the most famous picture taken by Apollo 8. It became iconic and has been credited with starting the environmental movement,” the IAU said.

Since the Moon is tidally locked to the Earth — it always has the same side facing the Earth — the Earth will never appear to rise above the surface to someone standing on the lunar far side. Orbiting around the Moon, however, gave the Apollo 8 astronauts this stunning view.

Anders, mission commander Frank Borman and James Lovell became the first humans to reach the moon after they blasted off atop a giant Saturn 5 rocket on December 21, 1968, and braked into orbit around the moon that Christmas Eve.

After 10 orbits, broadcasting images back to Earth and giving live television transmissions, the crew returned to Earth and landed in the Pacific Ocean. Six-and-a-half months later, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon’s surface, taking “a giant leap for mankind”.

The Apollo 8 craters were named by the IAU’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature, the authority responsible for naming planetary features across the solar system.

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