Frank Frederick Borman II (born March 14, 1928), (Col, USAF, Ret.), is a retired United States Air Force pilot, aeronautical engineer, test pilot, and NASA astronaut, best remembered as the Commander of Apollo 8, the first mission to fly around the Moon, making him, along with crew mates Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, the first of only 24 humans to do so. Before flying on Apollo, he set a fourteen-day spaceflight endurance record on Gemini 7, and also served on the NASA review board which investigated the Apollo 1 fire. After leaving NASA, he was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Eastern Air Lines from 1975 to 1986. Borman is a recipient of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. He is currently the oldest living former American astronaut, just eleven days older than fellow astronaut Jim Lovell.


Education and early career

Borman was born on March 14, 1928, in Gary, Indiana, where the Frank Borman Expressway is named after him.[1] He is of German descent, born as the only child to parents Edwin and Marjorie Borman. Because he suffered from numerous sinus problems in the cold and damp weather, his father packed up the family and moved to the better climate of Tucson, Arizona, which Borman considers his home town. He started to fly at the age of 15.[1]

Borman graduated from Tucson High School in 1946. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, in 1950, where he served as an Army Football Manager, and along with part of his graduating class, he entered the United States Air Force (USAF) and became a fighter pilot. He received his Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1957. Later, Borman was selected for the Aerospace Research Pilot School (Class 60C, I) and became a test pilot. He completed the Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program in 1970.[1]

Borman married Susan Bugbee in 1950, and they have two sons: Frederick and Edwin, and four grandchildren.[2]

Frank Borman and Jim Lovell walking up the ramp to the elevator before the Gemini 7 mission

Flight experience

Following graduation, Borman was a career U.S. Air Force officer. Prior to joining the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's space program in 1962, he received his pilot wings in 1951 and served as a fighter pilot with the 44th Fighter Bomber Squadron in the Philippine Islands from 1951 to 1953, and as an operational pilot and flight instructor in various squadrons in the United States, from 1953 until 1956.[1] Most of his flying was on F-80s, F-84s, swept wing F-84Fs and T-33s.[3]

In 1957, he became an assistant professor of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics at West Point, where he served until 1960.[4] In 1960, Borman began serving as an experimental test pilot engaged in organizing and administering special projects for the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, 1960–1962.

During his military service, he logged over 6,000 hours of flying time.

In 1966 and 1968, Borman served as special presidential ambassador on trips throughout the Far East and Europe. In 1970, he undertook another special presidential mission, a worldwide tour to seek support for the release of American prisoners of war held by North Vietnam.[5]

NASA career

Project Gemini

Borman was selected by NASA for the second NASA astronaut group in 1962. He was backup Command Pilot for Gemini 4 and was chosen as the Command Pilot for Gemini 7.[4] He was one of just four of this group chosen to command their first Gemini missions, the others being James McDivitt, Neil Armstrong, and Elliot See. (See was killed in a T-38 trainer jet crash three months before his mission. Astronauts Gerald Carr and Joe Engle, selected later, also commanded their first space flights.)

Borman flew Gemini 7 in December 1965 with Pilot James A. Lovell, Jr. This was a long-endurance flight which set a fourteen-day record, and also acted as the target vehicle in the first space rendezvous performed by Gemini 6A. The two craft came within one foot (30 centimeters) of each other and they took turns flying around each other, taking both still and motion pictures.

Apollo program

Borman was selected in late 1966 to command the third manned Apollo mission, planned as an elliptical medium Earth orbit test of the second manned Lunar Module (LM) on the first manned launch of the Saturn V lunar rocket sometime in 1967 or early 1968. However, in January 1967, the crew of the first manned Apollo mission Apollo 1 (then designated "AS-204"), Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Ed White, and Roger B. Chaffee were killed in a fire aboard their Command Module, delaying the Apollo program. Following this deadly accident, the AS-204 Accident Review Board was charged with investigating the root causes of the fire and recommending corrective measures – Borman was chosen as the only astronaut to serve on the review board.[6] In April 1967, while serving on the board, Borman was one of five astronauts who testified before a United States Senate committee investigating the Apollo 1 fire. His testimony helped convince U.S. Congress that Apollo would be safe to fly again.

In-flight footage of Frank Borman (center) during the Apollo 8 mission

Borman was then reassigned to his LM test mission, now planned to fly as "Apollo 9" in early 1969 after a first, low Earth orbit LM flight commanded by McDivitt in December 1968. But the LM was not ready for its first flight, leading NASA management to decide to replace Borman's mission with a lunar orbit flight using just the Command/Service Module as Apollo 8 in December, making McDivitt's flight Apollo 9 in March 1969. Borman's Lunar Module Pilot (and spacecraft systems engineer) was William Anders. The Command Module Pilot and navigator, Michael Collins, had to have back surgery and was replaced by his backup, James Lovell, reuniting Borman with his Gemini 7 crewmate. Apollo 8 went into lunar orbit on December 24 and made ten orbits of the Moon in 20 hours before returning to Earth.

Borman (at microphone) and his crewmates Anders and Lovell, on the deck of USS Yorktown (CV-10) following Apollo 8 splashdown

And, from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth.

— Frank Borman, live broadcast from lunar orbit (1968)[7][8]

The Apollo 8 mission is also notable for the Earthrise photograph taken by William Anders of the Earth rising above the Lunar horizon as the Command Module orbited the Moon, and for the reading from Genesis that was broadcast to Earth from Lunar orbit.[8]

The success of Apollo 8 avoided jeopardizing the goal of making the first manned Moon landing by the end of 1969 by not waiting for the delayed LM, and also provided invaluable experience in navigation to the Moon.

Space journalist Andrew Chaikin claims that, following the death of Gus Grissom, Borman became astronaut chief Deke Slayton's choice to command the first Moon landing attempt. In the fall of 1968, Slayton offered command of the first landing to Borman, who turned it down, choosing to retire instead.[9]:128

Post-NASA career

Eastern Air Lines

In early 1969, Borman became a special advisor to Eastern Air Lines and after retiring from NASA and the U.S. Air Force in 1970 as a Colonel, he was made Senior Vice President-Operations Group at the company. In 1972, Borman received a phone call one evening informing him that Eastern Flight 401 had disappeared off the radarscope near Florida's Everglades. Soon, Borman himself was wading through the murky swamps, helping rescue crash victims and loading survivors into rescue helicopters.

He was later promoted to Executive Vice President-General Operations Manager and was elected to Eastern's Board of Directors in July 1974. In May 1975, Borman was elected President and Chief Operating Officer. He was named Chief Executive Officer of Eastern in December 1975 and became Chairman of the Board in December 1976.[6]

After Borman became Eastern's CEO, the company went through the four most profitable years in the company's history. However, in 1983, contentious battles with labor unions, particularly the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) led the company to abandon several profitable programs and the resulting losses led to the sale of the airline to Texas Air Corporation, headed by Frank Lorenzo. Borman retired from Eastern in June 1986.[6]


Borman with Jim Lovell and William Anders in December 2008

Upon retirement, Borman and his wife, Susan Borman, moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he enjoyed rebuilding and flying vintage airplanes from the World War II and Korean War era. For a time, he was the majority owner of a Las Cruces Ford dealership founded by his son, Fred.[10]

Borman purchased a cattle ranch in the Bighorn Mountains of southern Montana in 1998, where he and his wife lived for nearly two decades. In addition to tending cattle, Borman continued his hobbies in rebuilding and modeling aircraft during these years. Borman and his wife now reside in Billings, Montana due to Susan's degrading mental health.[11]

Following John Glenn's death in December 2016, Borman became the oldest living American astronaut. Borman gave the commencement address to the University of Arizona's 2008 graduating class.[12] He is a member of the Society of Antique Modelers (SAM).[13]

Awards and honors

USAF Master Astronaut badge.jpg
Bronze star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Master Astronaut badge
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross Congressional Space
Medal of Honor
NASA Exceptional
Service Medal
World War II Victory Medal National Defense Service Medal
with one star
Air Force Longevity Service Award
with four clusters

In media

In the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, Borman was played by David Andrews.[17]

Borman has since appeared in the documentary When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions.[18] On November 13, 2008, Borman and his fellow Apollo 8 crewmates, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, appeared on the NASA TV channel to discuss the Apollo 8 mission.[19]

Borman also appeared in the 2005 documentary "Race to the Moon", which was shown as part of the PBS American Experience series. The film, renamed in 2013 as "Earthrise: The First Lunar Voyage," centered on the events that led up to NASA's Apollo 8 mission.[20]


Frank Borman

"There's no question that it was a coffin, and I'd have flown it gladly." — Public comment on the hazardous design and construction of the Apollo Command Module, during 1967 congressional testimony after serving on the AS-204 Accident Review Board.[21] At the time, Borman was scheduled to command the third manned flight of the Apollo spacecraft. He coordinated the redesign effort to improve the safety of the spacecraft.

"Had that rocket not fired, I'd still be orbiting the Moon. Forever. And I really didn't want to do that." — Spoken of the Apollo 8 mission during the documentary When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions

"I've long said that capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without Hell. But it's hard to see any good news in this." — as chairman of Eastern Air Lines[22]

"A superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid situations which require the use of his superior skill." - Flying Lessons, Federal Aviation Administration (8 January 2008)


See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Commanded Apollo 8, first mission to circumnavigate the Moon". New Mexico Museum of Space History. Retrieved December 24, 2017. 
  2. ^ Rieker, Jane (May 6, 1974). "A Happy Landing for the Bormans". People. Retrieved January 31, 2018. 
  3. ^ Borman, Frank (1988). Countdown. William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-07929-6. 
  4. ^ a b "Frank Borman, Colonel, USAF". NASA. Retrieved January 31, 2018. 
  5. ^ "Colonel Borman's flight experience". Archived from the original on September 11, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c "Frank Borman". NASA JSC. Retrieved June 25, 2016. 
  7. ^ Williams, David R. (September 25, 2007). "The Apollo 8 Christmas Eve Broadcast". NASA National Space Science Data Center. 
  8. ^ a b Borman, Frank; Lovell, James; Anders, William (December 25, 1968). The Apollo 8 Christmas Eve Broadcast (MOV) (Live broadcast). NASA National Space Science Data Center. 
  9. ^ Chaikin, Andrew (1999). A Man on the Moon. Time-Life, Inc. ISBN 978-0783556758. 
  10. ^ Diven, William (November 1992). "Auto dealers: sign of the times – The New Mexico Private 100". New Mexico Business Journal. Archived from the original on 2012-07-09. Retrieved February 21, 2012. 
  11. ^ News, Russell Nemetz - MTN. "Frank Borman: from pioneering astronaut to Montana rancher". Retrieved 2018-02-28. 
  12. ^ "A New Beginning". University Communications. University of Arizona. May 18, 2008. Retrieved June 25, 2016. 
  13. ^ a b "The AMA History Program Presents: Biography of Col. FRANK BORMAN" (pdf). Academy of Model Aeronautics. July 2003. Retrieved June 25, 2016. 
  14. ^ "National Aviation Hall of fame: Our Enshrinees". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 10, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Frank Borman inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame". Retrieved June 25, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Frank Borman". DeMolay International. 
  17. ^ "From the Earth to the Moon, Full Cast and Crew". IMDb. Retrieved December 5, 2017. 
  18. ^ "When We Left Earth Full Cast and Crew". IMDb. Retrieved December 24, 2017. 
  19. ^ "NASA Television Commemorates Apollo 8 Christmas Eve Broadcast". NASA. December 22, 2008. Retrieved January 31, 2018. 
  20. ^ "American Experience, Race to the Moon, Full Cast and Crew". IMDb. Retrieved December 24, 2017. 
  21. ^ To The Moon (6-LP documentary with accompanying book about the early space program, the Space Race, and the Apollo program to the first Moon landing). Time-Life. 1969. 
  22. ^ Nash, J. Madeleine; Van Voorst, Bruce; Taylor III, Alexander L. (October 18, 1982). "The Growing Bankruptcy Brigade". Time Magazine. Retrieved May 11, 2011. 
  23. ^ Staff. "Frank Borman". Borman Expressway Reconstruction Project. Indiana Department of Transportation. Archived from the original on March 28, 2007. Retrieved March 18, 2007. 
  24. ^ "Homepage". Borman K-8 Elementary School. Retrieved January 31, 2018. 
  25. ^ "Homepage". Frank Borman School. Retrieved January 30, 2018. 


  • Borman, Frank; Serling, Robert J. (October 1988). Countdown: An Autobiography. Silver Arrow. ISBN 0-688-07929-6. 

External links