An Encounter With Apollo 8 Thirty   years   ago,   on   Christmas   day   1968,   I   hurried   the   family   through   a   very   early   gift   exchange and   headed   for   Base   Operations   at   Patrick AFB,   FL   to   file   my   clearance   for   a   flight   to   the   Pacific for   the   purpose   of   photographing   Apollo   8   upon   its   return   from   the   moon.   The   plane   was   a   C- 135   (a   Boeing   707   in   the   civilian   world)   with   a   very   large   camera   mounted   on   the   left   side   of   the fuselage;    the    whole    system    being    called    "ALOTS,"    (Airborne    Lightweight    Optical    Tracking System).   We   had   used   it   very   successfully   for   photo   coverage   of   space   flight   launches,   but   no one had thought seriously of using it to photograph a re-entry until this flight was conceived. Now   flying   an   airplane   to   the   Pacific   at   that   point   in   my   flying   career   was   not   an   overly   exciting event   (particularly   on   Christmas   Day),   but   the   idea   of   an   intercept   between   two   vehicles   with such   a   tremendous   speed   differential   added   a   sense   of   urgency   and   a   touch   of   drama   from   my point   of   reference   that   I   would   always   remember.   I   had   a   feeling   of   "come   on   fellas   let's   get going,   they're   coming." And   when   I   would   actually   think   of   how   fast   they   were   coming   and   how slow   we   were   moving   it   only   heightened   the   anxiety,   Lt.   Col   Walt   Milam   was   the   co-pilot   and Maj.   Charlie   Hinton   (the   world's   greatest   navigator)   was   giving   the   directions. Additionally,   there was   an   ALOTS   crew   of   about   five   members   to   operate   the   camera   from   its   remote   control station back in the fuselage of the aircraft. We    were    required    to    take    a    minimum    crew    rest    after    arriving    at    Hickam   AFB    (Honolulu International   Airport),   but   that   feeling   of   "let's   get   going"   persisted   because   the   Apollo   8   crew was   certainly   not   doing   any   crew   resting.   Well,   a   remarkable   thing   happened   about   midnight   as we   gathered   for   departure   from   our   downtown   hotel;   the   crew   transportation   arrived   on   time,   no traffic   jams   were   encountered   getting   to   the   base,   the   weather   was   beautiful,   and   all   four engines   started   with   no   problems   (the   latter   not   always   being   a   given   when   you   were   really   in   a bind)   and   we   were   airborne   on   time   for   the   final   leg   of   our   rendezvous   with Apollo   8.   We   flew   to a   position   about   1,200   miles   west   and   a   little   south   of   Hawaii   climbing   eventually   to   43,000   feet. It was a beautiful clear night in the Pacific. Charlie   Hinton   gave   me   a   heading   change   from   southwest   to   north   east   precisely   as   he   had planned.   I   held   that   heading   for   approximately   two   minutes,   much   like   a   holding   pattern,   and then   Charlie   said,   "Look   to   your   left,   they   should   be   there   right   -   now-w-w."   It   was   a   moment   I will   always   remember.   It   should   not   have   surprised   me,   but   it   did.   They   were   there,   over   my   left shoulder   I   could   see   a   faint   light   coming   from   the   west   at   horizon   level,   getting   noticeably brighter with each passing second. It seemed unreal. Could this be happening? In   the   fashion   of   a   Bob   Newhart   comedy   routine   it   could   have   been   made   to   sound   humorous, e.g.   -   You   are   where?   You   say   you   are   in   the   center   of   the   Pacific   in   the   middle   of   the   night,   at 43,000   feet,   and   you   are   going   to   photograph   this   space   ship   coming   back   from   the   moon,   you see it now? etc. The   initial   shock   was   over   and   I   got   back   to   business   hurriedly   because   Apollo   8   was   really moving.   It   was   still   bothering   me   however,   that   it   was   coming   from   just   over   the   horizon.   Some how   coming   from   the   moon   I   expected   it   to   arrive   from   somewhere   "up   there" .   The   space   craft was   really   getting   bright. The   sky   began   to   light   up   as   the   command   module   separated   from   the service   module.   They   arched   apart   much   in   the   same   manner   as   the   old   Roman   candle fireworks tubes would send their discharged balls arching though the night. It   was   difficult,   but   at   that   moment   I   had   to   quit   being   a   spectator   and   get   back   to   flying   the airplane   and   commence   the   required   right   turn   so   as   to   keep   the   camera   on   the   passing spacecraft. This   necessary   action   caused   me   to   miss   the   real   spectacular   of   the   service   module breaking   up   with   the   attendant   generation   of   light   that   turned   night   into   day   momentarily.   All   of the   other   crew   members   in   the   cockpit   got   to   enjoy   it   however.   The   camera   crew   in   the   back   of the   plane   became   so   fascinated   with   the   big   flash   of   the   service   module   that   they   even   centered the   camera   on   it   momentarily   rather   than   on   the   command   module   which   was   our   primary target. I   had   started   making   my   turn   using   the   auto   pilot   but   because   I   had   become   overly   fascinated watching   the   spectacular   light   display   or   perhaps   I   simply   underestimated   the   crossing   speed   (it wasn't   a   thing   that   you   got   to   practice)   I   quickly   realized   that   the   maximum   38   degrees   of   bank that   the   auto   pilot   was   providing   was   not   going   to   give   a   sufficient   rate   of   turn.   I   punched   off   the auto pilot and started increasing the bank. Now   at   43,000   feet   that   old   girl   did   not   have   a   lot   left   over   and   objected   to   that   steep   turn   I   was forcing   her   into.   She   let   me   know   about   it   with   a   shudder   or   so. The   crew   was   so   fascinated   with the whole show that I could have probably slow rolled it and they would not have noticed. I   was   able   to   get   off   of   the   gauges   again   and   followed   visually   its   diminishing   light   into   an eastern   horizon   that   was   just   beginning   to   show   the   faintest   indication   of   the   coming   day   and the   successful   return   of Apollo   8.   It   was   a   very   memorable   experience.   I   considered   myself   very fortunate   to   have   been   on   the   scene   of   such   an   eminently   successful   achievement;   man returning    from    the    moon    for    the    first    time.    The    fact    that    I    had    known    Col.    Borman,    the Commander   of   the   mission,   when   we   were   test   pilots   at   Edwards   AFB   earlier   in   our   careers, made the event even more meaningful. This   article   is   from   "The   Intercom"   of   Cape   Canaveral   Chapter   of   TROA,   and   is   written   by   Lt. Col Robert Mosley, Retired. Submitted by Charles Hinton
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An Encounter With Apollo 8 Thirty   years   ago,   on   Christmas   day   1968,   I   hurried   the family   through   a   very   early   gift   exchange   and   headed for    Base    Operations    at    Patrick    AFB,    FL    to    file    my clearance   for   a   flight   to   the   Pacific   for   the   purpose   of photographing   Apollo   8   upon   its   return   from   the   moon. The   plane   was   a   C-135   (a   Boeing   707   in   the   civilian world)   with   a   very   large   camera   mounted   on   the   left side   of   the   fuselage;   the   whole   system   being   called "ALOTS,"     (Airborne     Lightweight     Optical     Tracking System).   We   had   used   it   very   successfully   for   photo coverage    of    space    flight    launches,    but    no    one    had thought   seriously   of   using   it   to   photograph   a   re-entry until this flight was conceived. Now   flying   an   airplane   to   the   Pacific   at   that   point   in   my flying     career     was     not     an     overly     exciting     event (particularly    on    Christmas    Day),    but    the    idea    of    an intercept   between   two   vehicles   with   such   a   tremendous speed    differential    added    a    sense    of    urgency    and    a touch   of   drama   from   my   point   of   reference   that   I   would always   remember.   I   had   a   feeling   of   "come   on   fellas let's    get    going,    they're    coming."   And    when    I    would actually   think   of   how   fast   they   were   coming   and   how slow   we   were   moving   it   only   heightened   the   anxiety,   Lt. Col    Walt    Milam    was    the    co-pilot    and    Maj.    Charlie Hinton   (the   world's   greatest   navigator)   was   giving   the directions.   Additionally,   there   was   an   ALOTS   crew   of about   five   members   to   operate   the   camera   from   its remote    control    station    back    in    the    fuselage    of    the aircraft. We   were   required   to   take   a   minimum   crew   rest   after arriving   at   Hickam AFB   (Honolulu   International Airport), but   that   feeling   of   "let's   get   going"   persisted   because the   Apollo   8   crew   was   certainly   not   doing   any   crew resting.    Well,    a    remarkable    thing    happened    about midnight    as    we    gathered    for    departure    from    our downtown    hotel;    the    crew    transportation    arrived    on time,   no   traffic   jams   were   encountered   getting   to   the base,   the   weather   was   beautiful,   and   all   four   engines started   with   no   problems   (the   latter   not   always   being   a given   when   you   were   really   in   a   bind)   and   we   were airborne   on   time   for   the   final   leg   of   our   rendezvous   with Apollo   8.   We   flew   to   a   position   about   1,200   miles   west and    a    little    south    of    Hawaii    climbing    eventually    to 43,000 feet. It was a beautiful clear night in the Pacific. Charlie    Hinton    gave    me    a    heading    change    from southwest   to   north   east   precisely   as   he   had   planned.   I held   that   heading   for   approximately   two   minutes,   much like   a   holding   pattern,   and   then   Charlie   said,   "Look   to your   left,   they   should   be   there   right   -   now-w-w."   It   was   a moment   I   will   always   remember.   It   should   not   have surprised   me,   but   it   did.   They   were   there,   over   my   left shoulder   I   could   see   a   faint   light   coming   from   the   west at   horizon   level,   getting   noticeably   brighter   with   each passing    second.    It    seemed    unreal.    Could    this    be happening? In    the    fashion    of    a    Bob    Newhart    comedy    routine    it could   have   been   made   to   sound   humorous,   e.g.   -   You are   where?   You   say   you   are   in   the   center   of   the   Pacific in   the   middle   of   the   night,   at   43,000   feet,   and   you   are going   to   photograph   this   space   ship   coming   back   from the moon, you see it now? etc. The   initial   shock   was   over   and   I   got   back   to   business hurriedly   because   Apollo   8   was   really   moving.   It   was still   bothering   me   however,   that   it   was   coming   from   just over   the   horizon.   Some   how   coming   from   the   moon   I expected   it   to   arrive   from   somewhere   "up   there" .   The space   craft   was   really   getting   bright.   The   sky   began   to light   up   as   the   command   module   separated   from   the service   module.   They   arched   apart   much   in   the   same manner    as    the    old    Roman    candle    fireworks    tubes would   send   their   discharged   balls   arching   though   the night. It   was   difficult,   but   at   that   moment   I   had   to   quit   being   a spectator    and    get    back    to    flying    the    airplane    and commence   the   required   right   turn   so   as   to   keep   the camera    on    the    passing    spacecraft.    This    necessary action   caused   me   to   miss   the   real   spectacular   of   the service     module     breaking     up     with     the     attendant generation     of     light     that     turned     night     into     day momentarily.    All    of    the    other    crew    members    in    the cockpit   got   to   enjoy   it   however.   The   camera   crew   in   the back   of   the   plane   became   so   fascinated   with   the   big flash   of   the   service   module   that   they   even   centered   the camera   on   it   momentarily   rather   than   on   the   command module which was our primary target. I   had   started   making   my   turn   using   the   auto   pilot   but because   I   had   become   overly   fascinated   watching   the spectacular      light      display      or      perhaps      I      simply underestimated   the   crossing   speed   (it   wasn't   a   thing that    you    got    to    practice)    I    quickly    realized    that    the maximum   38   degrees   of   bank   that   the   auto   pilot   was providing   was   not   going   to   give   a   sufficient   rate   of   turn. I   punched   off   the   auto   pilot   and   started   increasing   the bank. Now   at   43,000   feet   that   old   girl   did   not   have   a   lot   left over   and   objected   to   that   steep   turn   I   was   forcing   her into.   She   let   me   know   about   it   with   a   shudder   or   so. The   crew   was   so   fascinated   with   the   whole   show   that   I could   have   probably   slow   rolled   it   and   they   would   not have noticed. I   was   able   to   get   off   of   the   gauges   again   and   followed visually   its   diminishing   light   into   an   eastern   horizon   that was   just   beginning   to   show   the   faintest   indication   of   the coming   day   and   the   successful   return   of   Apollo   8.   It was   a   very   memorable   experience.   I   considered   myself very   fortunate   to   have   been   on   the   scene   of   such   an eminently   successful   achievement;   man   returning   from the   moon   for   the   first   time.   The   fact   that   I   had   known Col.   Borman,   the   Commander   of   the   mission,   when   we were   test   pilots   at   Edwards   AFB   earlier   in   our   careers, made the event even more meaningful. This   article   is   from   "The   Intercom"   of   Cape   Canaveral Chapter    of   TROA,    and    is    written    by    Lt.    Col    Robert Mosley, Retired. Submitted by Charles Hinton