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Race to the Moon | Article

Seeing the Earth from Afar

"[It was] the first time that humans had seen their own planet rise up above the horizon of another celestial body. It was particularly a poignant photograph because it shows this very stark, foreign, alien lunar horizon and our own home planet in all its color and delicacy. And to me, that photograph, along with the fact that Apollo 8, being the first step away from the planet, were one of the key things that brought home to the inhabitants of the earth, not just Americans, that this was a really a different activity than the prior space activities. But now we were really space explorers venturing away from our home, the Earth." — Bill Anders, Apollo 8 astronaut


Earth Rise
One of the most famous photographs in history was taken by Bill Anders from Apollo 8. In orbit around the moon, the astronauts looked down on the bleak, pockmarked landscape of the lunar far side, and then looked up to see the earth rise over the moon's gray horizon.

An Unscheduled View
Historian Andrew Chaikin reviewed the onboard audio recordings of the mission for his book A Man On the Moon: "If you listen to the voice tapes you hear Anders looking out the window and saying, 'Oh my God, look at that picture over there.' Frank Borman says, 'What is it?' Anders says, 'It's the earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.' And Borman at this point gives Anders a little dig about being so rigid about the photo plan and says, 'Don't take that, that's not scheduled.'


In Color
"Then the two of them are just marveling at the sight and Anders realizes this is a picture to take and he asks Jim Lovell to get him a color magazine of film. All the while Lovell is rummaging around in a storage cabinet Anders is saying, 'C'mon, hurry up, we don't have much time,' and he's clicked off a black and white shot, and Lovell gives him a color roll. He slapped that on the back of the Hasselblad camera and took the picture that became probably the most famous picture of the decade — if not one of the most famous of the century -- of the Earth rising beyond the moon. That is the picture that still sums up the electrifying experience of that flight."

The Earth in the Universe
Jim Lovell recalled his reaction upon seeing the earth from lunar orbit: "We came around the moon for the very first time and Frank and I were looking ahead as the horizon passed us and all of a sudden we saw the earth come out of a lunar horizon; and that was really a significant sight for me because I could put my thumb up to the window of the spacecraft and completely hide the earth. I realized that everything I had ever known, my home, my loved ones, everything that was there that I had known about is behind my thumb. I realized at that time just how insignificant we are in the universe."


A Call for Harmony on Lifeboat Earth
Journalist Walter Cronkite covered the space program for CBS. "I think that picture of the earthrise over the moon's horizon, that blue disk out there in space, floating alone in the darkness, the utter black of space, had the effect of impressing on all of us our loneliness out here. The fact that we seem to be the only spot where anything like humans could be living. And it, the major impression I think it made on most of us was the fact, how ridiculous it is that we have this difficulty getting along on this little lifeboat of ours floating out there in space, and the necessity of our understanding each other and of the brotherhood of humankind on this floating island of ours, made a great impression, I think, on everybody."

The Earth Steals the Show
Photographer Bill Anders summed up his feelings about the sight: "It was spectacular! And instantaneously it occurred to me: isn't that ironic? Here we came to study the moon, which after two orbits we convinced ourselves, already was just pounded beyond recognition by meteorite after meteorite. It looked like a battlefield, not at all friendly. Here we came to study that moon and yet, it was this gorgeous earth rise, this colorful, delicate-looking planet coming up that, in my view, was the most spectacular view of the whole flight."

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