University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame

America - Europe

A Transatlantic Diary 1961 - 1989

Klaus Lanzinger

South Bend, December 16, 1968

To Confirm the Election

Today the members of the Electoral College convened to cast their votes and to confirm the results of the presidential election of November 5. The 538 electoral votes were divided among the three candidates as follows:

Nixon 302, Humphrey 191, and Wallace 45.

This is a sheer formality hardly taken notice of by the public. Nixon has by far surpassed the required 270 electoral votes for the plurality, which has to be more than the votes of Humphrey and Wallace put together. It was therefore out of the question to have the election decided in the House of Representatives.

[The election of the U.S. president in the House of Representatives, if this ever should be necessary, provides that each state of the Union, regardless of its size or number of population, casts only one vote. In the course of American history, only one president was elected in the House. That was the election of Thomas Jefferson in the year 1800. The Union had at that time only 16 states with a population of five and a half million.]

South Bend, December 21, 1968

TLI - The Flight to the Moon

With a precision that can hardly be surpassed, the spacecraft Apollo 8 had, as scheduled, a lift-off at 7:51 EST from Cape Kennedy* on its historic flight to the moon. This is the first manned space flight to the moon with the astronauts Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders on board. After orbiting the earth twice, the instruction was given to “Go for TLI” (Translunar Insertion), whereby Apollo 8 was set on course to the moon. This way, the utopian vision of a Jules Verne is translated into the plain technical language of our time. But imagining that the earth satellite, which through the millennia has been looked upon as being surrounded by myth, will now be drawn into man’s sphere of influence and should become part of our world is for the moment awe-inspiring and frightening. The effects of this event cannot as yet be fully grasped.

*[In memory of President John F. Kennedy, Cape Canaveral near Orlando, Florida, was named Cape Kennedy in 1963. In 1973 the name Cape Canaveral was reintroduced, while the NASA Space Center on the Cape was named John F. Kennedy Space Center.]

South Bend, December 23, 1968

LOI - Orbiting the Moon

A few hours before the instruction will be given by the ground station for LOI (Lunar Orbit Insertion), and before Apollo 8 will enter the orbit around the moon, a number of thoughts strike me that may change our present mind set. As it has been possible to escape the force of gravity and the rotation of the earth, concepts that are based thereupon are being questioned. What after all do concepts and expressions like “heavy” and “light,” “above” and “below,” “ascent” and “descent,” “sunrise” and “sunset” etc. still mean? Our language is full of expressions that are determined by gravity and the rotation of the earth. Without a doubt, we are at the threshold of a new era, which will open new dimensions to human experience. From now on, also cosmic space - moon and planets - will assume concrete forms in our imagination. Eventually, the exploration of the moon will not be much different from that of Antarctica. To future generations it will become so familiar as if a new continent were discovered.

South Bend, December 24, 1968

The Christmas Message

To follow Apollo 8 orbiting the moon on the television screen is an exciting experience. One is waiting anxiously until the spacecraft reappears from the far side of the moon, where the radio contact with earth is interrupted. The images of the surface of the moon show an inhospitable desert that stands motionless in the scorching sun. But the sight of the rising earth on the horizon is exalting. As Christmas message to earth, the astronauts read the opening passage of Genesis. Rarely have the words, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” sounded as powerful as at this moment.

South Bend, December 27, 1968

The Return

After having orbited the moon ten times, Apollo 8 returned to earth. Shortly before dawn, the space capsule with the three astronauts on board splashed into the Pacific about 100 miles southwest of Hawaii. Immediately after landing, the capsule was heaved from the ocean. The first manned space flight to the moon has been performed without any visible difficulties. Thereby, the technical prerequisites for the moon landing next year have been accomplished.

<< Klaus Lanzinger >>