When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people…
~ Frank Borman
Anyone who has driven on the interstate through Northwest Indiana on I80-I94 is likely familiar with the Borman Expressway. This section of Interstate 80/94 was named for NASA astronaut Frank Borman, who was born in Gary, Indiana. Borman became famous in 1968 for commanding Apollo 8.
Born March 14, 1928, Borman only spent a few short years in Gary before his family moved to Tucson, Arizona. He developed a love for airplanes at an early age and was flying by the age of 15.
After graduating from high school, Borman attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. Borman then joined the Air Force as a fighter pilot. From 1951 to 1953, he flew planes with the 44th Fighter Bomber Squadron in the Philippines. Afterward, he spent several years as a military flight instructor.
In 1957, Borman earned his Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Thereafter, he spent several years as an Assistant Professor of Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics at West Point. Borman was also selected to become a test pilot after attending the Aerospace Research Pilot School.
These accomplishments eventually led to NASA’s interest in Borman. At the time, NASA was feverishly working on its space program. Locked in a head-to-head battle with Russia, the space program needed talented scientists with experience as military test pilots to man its missions.
In 1962, NASA accepted Borman into the astronaut program, and his first major mission came three years later in December, 1965. Borman was tapped as the command pilot for a test flight of Gemini 7. Along with James Lovell, Jr., he set an endurance flight record of fourteen days.
In 1966, Borman was selected to command the third manned Apollo mission, but NASA scrapped the flight following the tragic death of the Apollo 1 crew. Borman was the only astronaut appointed to serve on the review board following the fire. His testimony in front of the United States Senate is largely credited with convincing Congress to authorize further Apollo missions.
Following his testimony, Borman was selected to command the Apollo 8 mission to orbit the moon. He was joined on the mission by Jim Lovell and William Anders. The three men left Earth on December 21, 1968, completing 10 lunar orbits before returning to Earth on December 27, 1968.
On Christmas Eve, Apollo 8‘s broadcast from space was televised live to America. It featured Borman famously (and controversially) reading from the Book of Genesis before signing off with Christmas wishes.
Borman has stated that he approached his missions as battlefields of the Cold War. As a military officer, he felt it was his duty to complete his missions and prevent any Soviet Union advantage in space. The mission succeeded both in its geopolitical and scientific goals.
Borman retired in 1970 and enjoyed a second career working for Eastern Airlines. He eventually became president and CEO, retiring from the company in 1986.
Today, Borman is remembered for his groundbreaking mission that marked the first time a manned space flight completed an orbit of the moon. He holds the distinction of being the oldest living American astronaut.