National Geographic, May 1969, pg. 610

The expended third stage of the giant Saturn V rocket, which allowed the Apollo 8 crew to escape Earth’s gravity for the first time in human history, is seen against the black sky of deep translunar space.

This photograph was taken soon after translunar injection by James Lovell after the Command Module revolved to examine the S-IVB set against the dark background of translunar space. Attached to the SIVB is the Lunar Module Test Article (LTA) which simulated the mass of a Lunar Module (LM) on the Apollo 8 lunar orbit mission. The 29-feet panels of the Spacecraft LM Adapter (SLA) which enclosed the LTA during launch have already been jettisoned and are out of view. Sunlight reflected from small particles shows the “firefly” phenomenon which was first reported by astronaut John Glenn. While the SIVB was drifting through space, the crew still had to cross the vast translunar gulf for 66 hours.

From the mission transcript when the photograph was taken:

003:21:46 Borman:

Man, where’s the S-IVB? Anybody see it, now?

003:21:49 Lovell:

There it is!

003:21:50 Borman:

You found it?

003:21:51 Lovell:

Right in the middle. Right in the middle of my window. There’s not a panel around.

003:21:55 Borman:

What a view!

003:21:58 Collins (Mission Control):

Looks pretty good, huh?

003:21:58 Lovell:

Give me the camera.

003:21:59 Anders:

Well, we’ve got some still pictures we can take...

003:22:01 Lovell:

Could you pitch a little more?

003:22:02 Borman:


003:22:03 Anders:

We haven’t got in here, yet.

003:22:08 Anders:

f/11, 1/250th.

003:22:10 Lovell:


003:22:12 Anders:

We’ve Sep’d Houston. We got the IVB, right in sight.

003:22:16 Collins:

Roger, Apollo 8. [Long pause.]

003:22:19 Anders:

Could you pitch just a little more or [garble].

003:22:21 Borman:

Which way?

003:22:22 Anders:

Pitch up, pitch up a little more.

003:22:27 Borman:

How’s that?

003:22:33 Lovell:

I don’t see the [garble]. Maybe I can get it in a minute.

003:22:46 Lovell:

Easy on the thrusters.

003:22:48 Anders:

Don’t you think that’s enough pictures of it?