Saturday, December 24, 2011
Earthrise: A Christmas Postcard from Apollo 8
Posted by Jay at 11:06 AM
It's not Christmas Day yet, but this fantastic image is fit be shared on any season or occasion, although it has more weight on this day. The picture, called Earthrise, is by itself breathtaking enough to be featured on this blog, but it's doubly special because of the occasion on which it was taken by the crew of Apollo 8.
Earthrise was photographed by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders on December 24, 1968. The crew was supposed to orbit the Moon as part of its mission (which it did ten times), but with all the planning and monitoring that went into the mission, they didn't expect the scene that would greet them as they made their turn out of the darkness of the Moon.
As the spacecraft made its turn, the astronauts were greeted by the bright, blue Earth against the grey horizon of the Moon and the black emptiness of Space, prompting mission commander Frank Borman to exclaim, "Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here's the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty." While Command Module Pilot James Lovell steered the spacecraft, Borman and Anders took several black-and-white and color photos of the scene unfolding before their eyes, but it was Anders' color shot that became the definitive Earthrise. Later on, the crew would give their Christmas Eve broadcast, watched or heard by a billion humans back on their home planet.
The original image shows the Earth peeking out to the left of the Moon's horizon on the right (as can be seen below). This was the view that greeted the Apollo 8 astronauts on that fateful day. The more popular picture, however, shows the Earthrise in the landscape position (as can be seen in the header photo above).
To all blog readers, Merry Christmas! Or if you prefer, Happy Holidays! Or if you're not into that kind of stuff, have a great weekend! More information on the Earthrise image can be found on the Great Images of NASA website and NASA multimedia page. You can also listen to the original broadcast (mp3 link) of the Apollo 8 crew as they made this historic Christmas Eve postcard image.