For most people, going to the Moon or even just to space would be a dream come true. But one Apollo astronaut has offered a rather different perspective on his journey into the great unknown.
Frank Borman, 90, was one of the three astronauts on the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968. This was the first ever crewed mission to the Moon, and also the first time any humans had left Earth orbit. You might expect him, therefore, to wax lyrical about the incredible adventure.
But in an interview with This American Life, Borman instead revealed how uninterested he was in the bigger connotations of the journey. For him, it was simply a mission like any other, with the goal of beating the Soviet Union to the Moon much more important in his eyes.
“I was there because it was the Cold War,” he said. “I wanted to participate in this American adventure of beating the Soviets. But that’s the only thing that motivated me. Beating the damn Russians.”
Borman has absolutely no interest in space, and was unmoved by the whole experience. He said the feeling of weightlessness was interesting “maybe for the first 30 seconds. Then it became accepted.”
“I probably am [the worst person to go to the Moon],” he added.
When they arrived at the Moon after a journey of two days, Borman said it didn’t look like a place he wanted to go. “Devastation. Meteor craters. No color at all, just different shades of grey.”
The only thing he found interesting at all was seeing Earth rise up over the Moon’s horizon as they circled around, with his fellow crewmember Bill Anders taking the incredibly famous Earthrise shot from lunar orbit.
“The dearest things in life were back on Earth,” he said. “My family, my wife, my parents. For me, that was the high point of the flight, from an emotional standpoint.”
Perhaps even more surreal was that when Borman arrived home, he barely even spoke to his wife or children about the experience at all. “The last thing on my mind was talking about what the Moon looked like,” he said. “Nobody asked!”
Borman retired from NASA soon after, despite having the chance to walk on the Moon on a later Apollo mission. He turned down that opportunity, and said he very rarely thinks about the mission at all these days. He’s more interested in caring for his wife, who now suffers from Alzheimer’s.
So while many of us may dream of reaching for the stars, it’s fascinating to hear someone who’s already been there give a completely different take. Space, it seems, isn’t for everyone.