Apollo 8 Astronauts William Anders, Lunar Module (LM) Pilot; James Lovell, Command Module (CM) pilot; and Frank Borman, commander, transfer to the astronaut van for the trip to the launch pad. The first manned Apollo mission launched aboard the Saturn V and first manned Apollo craft to enter lunar orbit, the SA-503, Apollo 8 mission liftoff occurred on December 21, 1968 and returned safely to Earth on December 27, 1968. The mission achieved operational experience and tested the Apollo command module systems, including communications, tracking, and life-support, in cis-lunar space and lunar orbit, and allowed evaluation of crew performance on a lunar orbiting mission. The crew photographed the lunar surface, both far side and near side, obtaining information on topography and landmarks as well as other scientific information necessary for future Apollo landings. All systems operated within allowable parameters and all objectives of the mission were achieved.