In December of 1968, Frank Borman led the first team of astronauts to escape from Earth’s orbit, setting the stage for America’s lunar landings. Born in Gary, Indiana, in 1928, Borman grew up in Tucson, Arizona. His life-long romance with aviation began at the age of 15 when he earned his pilot’s license. Borman pursued an appointment to the United States Military Academy, and graduated in 1950. Commissioned into the fledgling U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant, he accomplished pilot training at Perrin AFB and Williams AFB. Following graduation, he was assigned to Clark AB, Philippines, flying the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star.
Borman then returned stateside for a tour as an Undergraduate Pilot Training instructor pilot flying the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star . In 1955, he moved west to Luke Air Force Base, where he instructed in the Republic F-84 Thunderjet as part of the new Air Force Fighter Weapons School. In 1957, Borman earned a Master’s of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the California Institute of Technology and subsequently taught thermodynamics and fluid mechanics at West Point. He continued his career as an educator at the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards AFB, California, when NASA selected him for the space program in 1962.
Later, in 1965, he and fellow astronaut James Lovell orbited the Earth in Gemini VII for 14 days, successfully rendezvousing with Gemini VI, and setting a new time-aloft record for manned space flight. Two years later, Borman was a member of the Apollo redesign team following the tragic fire, which killed the Apollo I astronauts. His next mission, Apollo VIII, launched from the Kennedy Space Center on 21 December 1968. Three days later, the crew broadcast live television pictures of the moon from an orbit only 60 miles above the lunar surface. Borman retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Colonel in 1970 and joined the management team of Eastern Airlines, eventually rising to President and Chief Executive Officer.
He also served as Special Presidential Ambassador on trips throughout Europe and the Far East, and worked diligently to seek worldwide support for the release of American Prisoners of War held by North Vietnam. For his accomplishments, Borman received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the Harmon International Aviation Trophy, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, and the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal. In addition, in 1990 he was inducted into the International Aerospace Hall of Fame and in 1993, into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.