Apollo 8 served as the first manned lunar orbit mission. Liftoff occurred on December 21, 1968, carrying a three man crew consisting of astronauts Frank Borman, commander; William Anders, Lunar Module (LM) Pilot; and James Lovell, Command Module (CM) pilot. The three safely returned to Earth on December 27, 1968. In this photograph, the crew members are waving as they leave the recovery helicopter. The mission achieved operational experience and tested the Apollo command module systems, including communications, tracking, and life-support, in cis-lunar space and lunar orbit, and allowed evaluation of crew performance on a lunar orbiting mission. The crew photographed the lunar surface, both far side and near side, obtaining information on topography and landmarks as well as other scientific information necessary for future Apollo landings. All systems operated within allowable parameters and all objectives of the mission were achieved.