CAP Remembers a Pioneer in Space Exploration on National Space Day
Astronaut Frank F. Borman II suits up before the launch of Apollo 8 in December 1968. (Source: National Air and Space Administration)
by Capt. Brandon Lunsford, CAP, Oklahoma Wing
TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (May 7, 2021) – In summer 1944, 16-year-old Frank F. Borman II had his eyes on the skies, having recently earned his private pilot's certificate. That summer he joined Civil Air Patrol’s Arizona Wing as a cadet in Tucson, learning the customs and courtesies of CAP and the Army Air Forces.
Two years later, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he earned his commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force in 1950. By 1962, Borman found himself in the latest class of astronauts – the first former CAP member selected for space flight.
“I’m convinced it’s no longer whether we’ll do these things,” Borman said about space exploration before a joint meeting of Congress in 1969. “It’s a question of how long it will take and how much we’ll spend. Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit, and I hope we will never forget that.”
In December 1965, Borman commanded Gemini 7 together with James Lovell. Civil Air Patrol made both men honorary CAP lieutenant colonels before the flight, the first 14-day mission in NASA history.
The success of Gemini 7 paved the way for Borman to command Apollo 8 in December 1968 — the first manned mission to the moon. Before liftoff, Maj. Gen. Walter B. Putnam, CAP national commander, presented a special CAP flag to the crew of Apollo 8, consisting of Borman, Lovell and William A. Anders. Putnam also presented the three men with a CAP organizational charter, designating them the "Apollo 8 Squadron."
Today’s Civil Air Patrol encourages its cadet members to seek out a future in the aerospace and space industries through its STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies. The space industry is a broad and diverse field, ranging from a variety of science and engineering streams to farming, manufacturing and computer technology.
No single company builds a complete flight vehicle. A production program is organized as a team of specialized manufacturers, and each contributes individual parts, components, systems and subsystems. These eventually come together to be assembled into a final product — aircraft, missiles or spacecraft.
When Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve 1968, Borman, Lovell and Anders became the first humans to orbit the moon and the witness the first "earthrise." Quite the journey for a CAP cadet from the hot Arizona summer of 1944.
“The view of the Earth from the moon fascinated me,” Borman said. “A small disk, 240,000 miles away.”
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About Civil Air Patrol
Now celebrating its 80th year, Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and as such is a member of its Total Force. In its auxiliary role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 single-engine Cessna aircraft and more than 2,000 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) and performs about 90% of all search and rescue operations within the contiguous United States as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. Often using innovative cellphone forensics and radar analysis software, CAP was credited by the AFRCC with saving 130 lives during the past fiscal year. CAP’s 60,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. As a nonprofit organization, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace education using national academic standards-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Members also serve as mentors to 24,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs.