Fifty years ago Monday, Dec. 24, 1968, 3 astronauts saw a view of Earth that no human had seen before.
On that Christmas Eve, the crew of NASA’s Apollo eight — Frank Borman, Bill Anders and Jim Lovell — were circling the moon searching for potential landing sites for future missions.
Anders’ job was to take photos of the moon’s surface. As Borman rolled the ship, something caught Anders’ eye.
“Oh my God, look at that image over there! it is the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!” Anders exclaimed.
With a slight chuckle, Commander Borman said, “Hey, do not take that, it isn’t scheduled .”
NASA’s mission parameters included nothing about taking photos of the earth.
“When the earth came up over the lunar horizon, that is once it really impressed me as to how much more delicate the earth was,” Anders said during a recent interview with the today show’s Harry Smith.
Later that evening, the crew did a live TV broadcast, showing pictures of the earth and moon to what has been described as the largest TV audience in history at the time.
“The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you’ve got back there on Earth,” Lovell told the viewers.
The broadcast finished with the crew reading from the book of Genesis. Anders began:
- “For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo eight has a message we’d like to send you.
- In the Beginning God created the h\Heaven and the Earth.
- And the earth was without form, and void; , darkness was upon face of the deep.
- And Spirit of God moved Above face of the waters.
- And God said, Let Be There Light And There Was Light.
- And God saw the light, that it absolutely was good….”
As NPR writes, the image that came to be called “Earth rise” remains one of the most iconic pictures ever taken in space. Anders said it forever changed the manner people think about the earth.
“The only color that we could see and contrasted by this very unfriendly, stark lunar horizon, made me think, ‘You know, we really live on a gorgeous little planet,’ ” he said.