This, ladies and gentlemen, is the famous Earthrise picture. This picture was taken by William Anders on the Apollo 8 mission on December 24th, 1968 . Today, we celebrate the 45th anniversary of this humbling image. This is possibly one of the most profound images a human has ever taken; the renowned nature photographer Galen Rowell even went to so far as to say that this is “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.” The Earthrise picture is one of the first images of Earth ever taken where the entire globe is visible, showing the Earth as a small blue ball over the lunar horizon.
Apollo 8 is the first manned mission to leave Earth orbit. Because of this, Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders became the first three people in human history to see our dear planet as a whole. The Apollo 8 flight trajectory also meant the Apollo 8 crew were the first humans to directly observe the far side of the Moon.
AS8-14-2383 is the very memorial NASA designation that is given this iconic photograph. Right before this picture was taken, Borman took a black and white photograph of the same scene (though, the Moon was lower on the horizon). Shortly after the first image was taken, Anders was able to find suitable color film and then snapped this beauty.
In this picture, the world is “upside-down” (from it’s normal orientation). The South Pole is pointing towards the top left-hand corner with Antarctica at the 10 o’clock position. The Equator runs westwardly from the bottom left corner to the top right corner. The nightfall terminator crosses the African Continent. In this case, Earth rises as a result of Apollo 8’s motions as it orbits the Moon – you can see an animation of what the Apollo 8 astronauts saw below.
The Earthrise picture is one of the most influential images ever taken. Life named this picture in it’s list of 100 Photographs that Changed the World. The appearance of this picture also helped to jumpstart the environmental movement. Thousands of years from now, this picture will live on as a reminder of the era when humanity was opening its eyes to the reality of our existence – clinging to the surface of a small, fragile, sphere and living in an interconnected ecosystem.