The Apollo 8 story usually spotlights the impact of Anders' photos, which were the first to show our planet hanging over the moon's surface, and the magic of the crew's Christmas Eve reading from Genesis. In later missions to the moon, astronauts were quarantined after returning to Earth.
But in the summer of 1968, those plans got turned upside down. Borman, Lovell, and Anders became the first men to leave earth's gravitational field, the first to travel through a quarter of a million extraterrestrial miles, the first to see the dark side of the moon, and the first to see the heart-stoppingly gorgeous view of an earthrise from outer space - to see the Earth, in Borman's awestruck formulation, the way God must see it. This was one of the dozens upon dozens of pictures taken in lunar orbit.
When the movie "Apollo 13" was released more than 20 years ago, I stood in line for an hour for tickets. The conversations in the spacecraft at the time were captured by an on-board voice recorder.
Susan Byrum Rountree, photographed in 1968, holds her first camera, a gift that came the day after the Apollo 8 crew broadcast from space.
Borman grabbed his thruster handle and pitched the ship up slightly. "Please be informed, there is a Santa Claus", Lovell called out as they re-emerged from behind the moon.
The astronauts' wonder at the beauty of the Earth was matched by their first look at the lunar surface. As they're approaching the terminator on their fourth orbit, they see the Earth coming up over the moon's barren horizon. That meant they could watch, at last, as their home planet rose above the bleak lunar plains.
I don't know who said it, maybe all of us said, 'Oh my God. Look at that picture over there. "Wow, is that pretty!"
Despite not being the "first" image of the Earth from our Moon, Earthrise is special. The astronauts had seen the Earth and they had seen the moon, but they'd never seen them together - the ugly broken world beneath them and the lovely, breakable one in front of them. They were fully trained in its use and in photography principles and had access to both 70mm color and black and white film.
Apollo 8 the first manned mission to the moon entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve Dec. 24 1968. NASA
Lovell: Oh man, that's great!
Lovell pulled himself away and dove under the seats to the equipment bay.
"I was the flight engineer and official photographer and had very little photographic training", Anders says. I wanted to introduce my children to the heroes of my day - not sports or entertainment personalities - but astronauts, men who used their wits and slide rules to accomplish the unimaginable - reaching the moon.
Bill Anders isn't a name that many people will recognize from the Apollo missions of the '60s and '70s. "I just happened to be in the right place at the right time".
Borman: (Joking) Hey, don't take that, it's not scheduled.
"Take several of them", Lovell echoed.
Before the flight, no one had thought about photographing Earth, according to Anders.
That perspective couldn't have come at a time when it was more needed for Americans.
LEWIS: The Earth, rising above the barren lunar landscape.
"We were told that on Christmas Eve we would have the largest audience that had ever listened to a human voice", recalled Borman during 40th anniversary celebrations in 2008.