The ticketed event is sold out, but NASA TV will livestream it.
The program includes remarks by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell, as well as Ellen Stofan, the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the National Air and Space Museum. There also will be remarks by leaders from the National Cathedral and Episcopal Church, including the Most Rev. Michael Curry, who will discuss the spiritual meaning of exploration, and the Very Revd Randy Hollerith, Dean of the Cathedral. In addition, the program will include video presentations and a choral performance recreating the Apollo 8 Christmas Eve broadcast, as well as a lighting of the National Cathedral and its space window, according to a press release.
Apollo 8 was the first human mission to the Moon, and its crew were the first people to see the far side with their own eyes. The mission’s dramatic highlights included a live Christmas Eve broadcast during which the astronauts read verses from the Book of Genesis in lunar orbit, and the iconic Earthrise photo, which stunned the world with the beauty and isolation of our home in the cosmos.
Lovell commented, “The vast loneliness up here of the Moon is awe inspiring, and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth,” he said. “The Earth from here is a grand oasis in the big vastness of space.” (via NASA website)
In 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 concluded their Christmas Eve message with “Good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on this good earth.”
In 2014, Pope Francis addressed the question of space exploration, indicating that he would be open to baptizing an extraterrestrial being who asked for it.
The National Cathedral has a long history of engaging with space exploration; its “Space Window” is home to a piece of moon rock, brought back to earth by the following year’s Apollo 11 mission, the first to land on the moon.
From the NASA website:
Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins delivered the seven-gram sample from the lunar Sea of Tranquility during a ceremony at the Cathedral on July 21, 1974, five years after their history-making lunar landing.
… The moon rock is a basalt, probably from a lava flow. The mineral pyroxferroite, unknown on Earth, was also discovered in the rock.
The cathedral’s dean, Rev. Francis B. Sayre, Jr., preached on the spiritual significance and religious implications of the first steps on moon by man.
Find the livestream of this evening’s Spirit of Apollo broadcast here at 8pm.