Frank Borman, the astronaut who led the first orbit of the Moon, dies at 95 | ET REALITY


Frank Borman, the commander of NASA’s 1968 Apollo 8 space flight, whose astronauts became the first men to orbit the moon, captured the famous image known as Earthrise and read lines from Genesis to provide brief Christmas relief to an America Troubled, she died Tuesday in Billings, Mont. He was 95 years old.

Mr. Borman’s death was Announced by NASA.

Apollo 8 took three astronauts to the furthest distance from Earth that anyone had ever traveled. It orbited the lunar surface 10 times, flying nearly 60 miles above its surface, to photograph a desolate, rock-strewn terrain, searching for possible landing sites for upcoming moonwalks.

Borman, who never set foot on the Moon (and by his own account had no desire to do so), flew into space twice.

In December 1965, he commanded the two-crew Gemini 7 spacecraft on a 14-day flight that set what was then a record for time spent in space. Gemini 7 rendezvoused with Gemini 6A while orbiting Earth, a significant step toward perfecting a similar maneuver required when astronauts reach the moon.

“Trained as a fighter pilot and known for his lightning-fast reflexes and exceptional decision-making skills, Borman was one of the best pure pilots NASA ever had,” said James A. Lovell Jr., who flew with Mr. Borman on Gemini 7. and Apollo 8, he wrote in “Lost Moon” (1994), a collaboration with Jeffrey Kluger that recounts the near-fatal Apollo 13 mission on which he flew.

“When Frank Borman walked into a room, you knew he was in charge,” wrote Andrew Chaikin in his book “A Man on the Moon” (1994).

“He had been molded at West Point,” Chaikin added. “At 40, he still wore his dirty blonde hair as short as a cadet’s, and he still lived by the Point’s simple motto: Duty, Honor, Country. The mission came first.”

Borman retired from NASA and the Air Force in 1970, but remained a national figure as president of financially troubled Eastern Airlines and appearing in television commercials telling customers, “We have to earn our wings every day. He fought a long battle to reduce labor and administrative costs before leaving Eastern in 1986, when Texas Air took it over.

Frank Frederick Borman was born on March 14, 1928 in Gary, Indiana, the only child of Edwin and Marjorie (Pearce) Borman, owners of an Oldsmobile dealership there. When he was five years old, Frank visited Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, and ignited a lifelong passion for aviation.

“Dad took me on a five-dollar ride with an impressive pilot in an old biplane,” she recalled in her memoir “Countdown” (1988), written with Robert J. Serling. “I sat next to Dad in the front seat, with the pilot in the cockpit behind us, and was captivated by the feel of the wind and the sense of freedom that flight so magically creates.”

When he was a child, his family moved to Tucson, Arizona, hoping that the dry climate would help alleviate his sinus and mastoid problems. But in the midst of the Depression, his father had trouble finding a good job in the auto industry, and his mother started a pension to help cover expenses.

Frank remained intrigued by aviation, building model airplanes with the help of his father and earning a pilot’s license at age 15.

He entered West Point shortly after World War II ended, graduated in 1950 and became an Air Force fighter pilot, but was not assigned to combat in the Korean War. He received a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1957, became a test pilot and helped develop space flight test programs for future astronauts at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

He was included in the Gemini group of astronauts, which followed the original Mercury Seven, in September 1962.

In January 1967, the Apollo project suffered disaster when a fire in the cabin of a launch pad at Cape Kennedy, Florida, killed three astronauts. Borman was a member of the team that investigated the fire and helped redesign the Apollo capsule, eliminating flaws that contributed to the deaths.

He continued training for a space flight. His Gemini 7 flight with Lovell experienced fuel cell problems, but demonstrated that astronauts could work effectively on the long-duration flights planned for lunar exploration.

Gemini 7 participated in a pioneering encounter 185 miles above the ground when Gemini 6A, carrying Captain Walter M. Schirra Jr. of the Navy and Major Thomas P. Stafford of the Air Force, caught up with it and flew alongside it on orbit. That type of maneuver had to be perfected for a lunar module to descend to the Moon from an orbiting command ship and then take off from the lunar surface, then rendezvous and dock with the mother ship for the return trip to Earth.

The Apollo 8 mission, which carried Mr. Borman, then an Air Force colonel; Lovell, then a Navy captain, and Air Force Maj. William A. Anders, was only the second manned flight of the Apollo program. After the Apollo 1 disaster, several unmanned test flights were carried out. It was also the first manned flight to use the enormously powerful Saturn 5 rocket for takeoff.

Among his many images of the lunar surface taken since Apollo 8, Major Anders photographed the relatively smooth area known as the Sea of ​​Tranquility, which became, as predicted, the site of Apollo 11’s epic landing in July. 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first man to walk on the moon.

On their fourth orbit of the moon on Christmas Eve 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts saw Earth rising above the lunar horizon from a distance of more than 230,000 miles, a smaller but brighter blue-and-white body in the middle of the moon. darkness. Borman was the first to notice. Major Anders, who had been photographing the moon with black and white film, quickly switched to color to capture the image.

A photograph broadcast on television that night showed the Earth in black and white. But a year later, NASA released a color photograph taken by Major Anders, the image that became known as Earthrise. It was reproduced on a 1969 postage stamp bearing the words from Genesis “In the beginning God…” and became a symbol of the first Earth Day in 1970 and the modern environmental movement it helped spawn.

As the astronauts were about to complete their orbit, they began their second and final television broadcast. The bright moon, in the black sea of ​​space, was visible from the window of a spaceship. Borman described it as a “vast, lonely, forbidding expanse of nothingness, more like clouds and clouds of pumice.”

The astronauts took turns reading the Book of Genesis, which tells of the creation of Earth. Mr. Borman concluded the broadcast with the words: “Good evening, good luck, Merry Christmas and God bless you all, everyone on the good Earth.”

In his memoirs, Borman spoke of “a telegram from someone I didn’t know, just an ordinary citizen. He telegraphed: ‘To the crew of Apollo 8. Thank you. You saved 1968’”.

The astronauts’ scripture readings came near the end of a traumatic year. Casualties in the Vietnam War had mounted, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated, universities were engulfed in anti-war demonstrations, and protests against racial injustice and economic inequality broke out. .

The Apollo 8 astronauts were named Time magazine’s Men of the Year, hailed in parades in New York, Chicago and Washington, and appeared before a joint meeting of Congress.

Unlike his two flights at NASA, Mr. Borman’s stay in the business world was not easy.

He became president of Eastern Airlines in 1976, when the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. Borman persuaded his unions to agree to a wage freeze along with the industry’s first profit-sharing plan. He also made deep cuts at management levels; Unlike the luxury cars favored by many of his executive predecessors, he drove an old Chevrolet to his office.

Miami-based Eastern became profitable in the late 1970s but suffered when airline deregulation took effect in 1979, generating competition from low-cost airlines such as People Express and Air Florida. And Borman’s decision to spend heavily on modernizing Eastern’s fleet increased debt pressure.

In February 1986, Eastern’s board of directors agreed to a takeover by Texas Air, and Mr. Borman resigned that summer. Eastern subsequently declared bankruptcy and ceased operations in January 1991.

Mr. Borman lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after leaving Eastern. He became president of Patlex Corporation, holder of patents on laser technology, and flew vintage airplanes. He later moved to Billings, where he had a ranch.

Borman married Susan Bugbee, whom he had met in high school, in 1950. She died in 2021. They had two sons, Frederick and Edwin. Information about his survivors was not immediately available.

For all his accomplishments, Borman seemed indifferent to the experience of space travel.

“I was there because it was a Cold War battle,” he said. In an interview on NPR’s weekly radio show “This American Life” in 2018. “I wanted to participate in this American adventure of beating the Soviets. But that’s the only thing that motivated me.”

He probably could have walked on the moon on a later mission, he said, but he didn’t want to.

“I wouldn’t have accepted the risk involved in going to collect stones,” he said. “I love my family more than anything in the world. “I would never have exposed them to danger simply by being an explorer.”

What amazed him most was his view of the Earth from Apollo 8. As he said: “The contrast between our memories of the Earth and the color of the Earth and the totally desolate and dead Moon was surprising.”

It was an image, he said, that “I would remember until the day I die.”

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