Fifty Years After Taking "Earthrise" Photo, Apollo 8 Astronaut Has Christmas Message

27 December, 2018, 04:59 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Apollo 8: Around The Moon and Back

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Anders, lunar module pilot of Apollo 8, the first human spaceflight to leave Earth's orbit, said sending crews to Mars was "almost ridiculous". Behold! The featured image is a close-up of the picture that Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders was talking about. A NASA director answered: 50-50.

"And then the launch of Apollo 8 brought a binding to the people of our country", Lovell said. Before that flight to Mars, NASA will first put men back on the moon. And as they circled the moon at Christmas Eve, they recited the first 10 verses from the King James Bible.

"My main concern in this whole flight was to get there ahead of the Russians and get home". The three astronauts completed ten orbits of the Moon and the spacecraft and ground support were thoroughly tested.

On Christmas Eve, the spaceship successfully slipped into orbit around the moon.

ANDERS: (Reading) In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. With the bit of the windowsill in the shot, I love the reminder that it was people and not robots that went to the Moon.

"Earthrise", as it would be called, went viral, or as viral as anything could in 1968, a time that saw all sorts of photographs leave their mark on the national consciousness, a lot of them scars: The South Vietnamese general pointing his pistol at the soldier's head, point blank; the busboy tending to Robert F. Kennedy's lifeless body; the civil rights activists on the motel balcony pointing in the direction of Martin Luther King Jr.'s killer.

After checking out their spacecraft's systems, the crew prepared for the crucial Trans-Lunar-Injection (TLI) which required a re-ignition of the Saturn V's third stage, still attached to the Apollo spacecraft.

Another such tragedy would be shattering to Americans, all the more so since Apollo 8 would be traveling over Christmas.

JIM LOVELL: And it was actually his wife.

The six-day mission was a spectacular success. "And the dearest things in life were back on the Earth, my family, my wife", he said. "There's the Earth comin' up".


The rest of us can better imagine what it was like for the crew when they made that iconic photo, thanks to a 2013 NASA visualization which draws on richly detailed maps of the moon's surface made from data gathered by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Just paint me a picture of what that looked like.

"When the Earth came up over the lunar horizon, that's when it really impressed me as to how much more delicate the Earth was", Anders said in a recent interview with the Today show's Harry Smith.

Earth, this bright, lovely sphere, alone in the inky vastness of space, a soloist at the edge of the stage suspended in the spotlight.

Cowan asked, "Is it fair to say that that one image is one of the biggest catalysts for the environmental movement?" But what Apollo 8 did was solidify the one thing that everybody was proud of.

LOVELL: The way this went was the fact - the explosion occurred.

"Over 3 billion people, mountains, oceans, deserts, everything I ever knew was behind my thumb", he recalled at a recent anniversary celebration at Washington's National Cathedral.

When NASA was approached to comment on Anders' remark, the space administration has not responded.

Borman and Anders never flew in space again, and Soviet cosmonauts never made it to the moon.

It was the furthest humans had ever been from their home planet at that point - and a vital stepping stone on the road to Apollo 11's historic moon landing just seven months later.

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