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home : news : state news free August 20, 2014

12/23/2013 1:22:00 PM
Lovell reinacts 'Christmas Eve Broadcast to Earth'
45th Anniversary of Apollo 8 orbiting the moon

CHICAGO — Retired astronaut Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., joined Illinois Governor Pat Quinn for a reenactment of Lovell’s famous 1968 “Christmas Eve Broadcast to Earth.” Standing in front of Lovell’s Apollo 8 capsule at the Museum of Science and Industry, the reenactment included the voices of student Mary Doro and the father of student Anne Wagner, who Governor Quinn called the “heroes of Downers Grove North”.

“Exactly 45 years ago we witnessed one of the most inspiring broadcasts in history,” Governor Quinn said. “The world needed an uplifting message in 1968 and the heroic Apollo 8 astronauts delivered. This holiday season let us recognize our everyday heroes, like members of the Downers Grove North community who are inspiring us today.”

As 1968 drew to a close, people stopped what they were doing on Christmas Eve to watch Capt. Lovell, Commander Frank Borman and Pilot William Anders read excerpts of the Book of Genesis as their tiny capsule orbited the moon. Viewed by one-quarter of humanity, the reading was the most-watched TV broadcast at the time and earned an Emmy Award.  

Since the 1960s, the Gemini and Apollo program astronauts have been hailed as heroes. The Governor today noted that heroism comes in many forms, and one example of it is seen in the story of Anne Wagner, Mary Doro and their Downers Grove North High School classmates.

Anne Wagner, who has Down syndrome, missed half of her sophomore year and most of her junior year after being diagnosed with leukemia. After returning to school in her senior year, her friend - Mary Doro - and other classmates launched a successful social networking drive to elect her 2013 Homecoming Queen. Governor Quinn proclaimed Oct. 15, 2013 to be “Downers Grove North High School Day in Illinois” in honor of Anne’s bravery and her classmates’ passion to honor her.

For today’s reenactment, Mary Doro read the part of Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, and Anne Wagner’s father read the role of Commander Frank Borman.

Captain Lovell – who has family ties in Illinois – has joined Governor Quinn in the past to promote the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund. Launched by Governor Quinn when he was Lieutenant Governor, the Fund provides grants to families of Illinois National Guard members and Illinois residents serving in the U.S. Armed Forces Reserves to ease the financial burden at home when a loved one is deployed overseas. The Fund has distributed more than $15 million to 29,000 Illinois military families.

During his NASA career, Capt. Lovell served as Pilot of the historic Gemini 7 flight in 1965, Command Module Pilot on Apollo 8, and Commander of Apollo 13, also known as the “Houston…we’ve got a problem” mission. The role of Lovell was played by actor Tom Hanks in the 1995 film Apollo 13, in which Lovell makes a cameo appearance.

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