Throughout his long career as an artist, Robert McCall was renowned for his work as a space-scene painter — Isaac Asimov once referred to him as "the nearest thing we have to an artist in residence in outer space.” McCall began working for NASA in 1962 when the agency began enlisting artists to promote their mission, and his work can be seen in assorted mission patches, commemorative postage stamps, the promotional artwork for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and on the south lobby wall of the National Air and Space Museum in arresting mural form. His paintings can additionally be found at the Pentagon, the Air Force Academy, and the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
"Man's First Voyage to the Moon" was used to illustrate an article by Dr. von Braun, "What the Apollo 8 Moon Flight Really Did for Us" in the March 1969 issue of Popular Science. McCall's image depicts the flight path of Apollo 8 with the CSM manned by Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders. The CSM is pictured at a critical moment in the mission (Christmas Day, 1968) as the spacecraft emerged from the dark side of the Moon — out of contact with Mission Control — and began the Trans-Earth-Injection which would allow the spacecraft to exit lunar orbit and begin their journey back to Earth. Upon regaining contact with Mission Control, CMP Lovell exclaimed: "Please be informed, there is a Santa Claus."
Apollo 8 marked a pivotal escalation in the Space Race, as Dr. von Braun articulates in this article: "Our first manned expedition to another world, by performing a series of unprecedented space feats, has brought about the possibility of setting foot upon the moon this summer."
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