50th anniversary of Earthrise: "We went to explore the Moon and discover the Earth"


It was a moment that not even NASA had planned: an image of the Earth emerging blue on a dark horizon

Seven months before the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon, another space trip made history in Christmas of 1968.

Apollo 8 was the first manned mission of NASA to travel on our satellite.

The astronauts William Anders, Frank Borman and James Lovell They circled the Moon 10 times without landing on its surface.

The mission was to test the efficiency of the Apollo system.

But one of his great legacies was the fruit of a moment that no one, not even NASA, had planned.

Anders is the author of Earthrise, or "exit o Dawn of the Earth ", the photo that shows the blue and the life full of life that emerges in a dark sea on the gray and desert horizon of the Moon.

The launch of the Apollo 8 took place on December 21, 1968 and the image was captured by Anders on December 24th.

Half a century later, we remember in BBC World this iconic photo that many consider the picture that has changed the way we see the world.

"Suddenly I saw the Earth"

"It seems absurd, we had planned everything, but there was not a plan on Earthrise"Anders said in" Primeros a la Luna, the story of Apolo 8 ", a documentary by director Paul Hildebrandt published in December in the United States.

James (Jim) Lovell, Frank Borman and William (Bill) Anders, members of the Apollo 8 mission

First to the Moon: James (Jim) Lovell, Frank Borman and William (Bill) Anders.

During the first orbits on the moon, the crew was upside down, according to the NASA website.

A maneuver allowed the ship to turn until the astronauts were in the normal position.

Lunar surface with craters

This image of the lunar surface was captured by Apollo 8 who orbited the Moon 10 times without landing.

The surface of the Moon could be clearly seen, carved by craters that betrayed a history of violent clashes.

"All of a sudden I saw the Earth emerge on the lunar surface and without wasting time I started shooting with the camera, "Anders recalled.

"I will do itNía the only color camera"

Photographing during the mission was one of Anders's tasks.

"I do not remember who said suddenly, or if we all said unison," Oh my God, look at that! "," Says Anderson on the NASA website.

Illustration showing the lunar form of Apollo 8 on the lunar surface with the blue Earth in the background

NASA published this illustration which reconstructs the path of the lunar module in December 1968.

"The Earth has emerged.We never talked about this moment, there were no instructions, I said jokingly," this was not in the flight plan, "while the other two crew members were shouting at me. to give him a camera.

"I had the only color camera with a zoom lens. I gave Borman a black and white camera and I do not remember what happened to Lovell. "

"We started taking pictures without stopping".

Anders took between 10 and 12 photos, and one, which "went pretty well", was selected for broadcast by NASA.

The Bible from the Moon

Apollo 8 was a historic mission for many reasons.

His astronauts were the first human beings to leave Earth's orbit.

Apollo 8 was also the first manned mission launched by a Saturn V rocket, the first to include live television coverage from the lunar surface … and theFirst of all, sendIor a reading of the Bible from the Moon.

Launch of Apollo 8 with a Saturn V rocket

Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to be launched with a Saturn V rocket.

On December 24th, the crew of Apollo 8 took turns reading the first ten verses of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, which tells the day of creation.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," Anders began.

Reading has generated controversy and an atheist group has even unsuccessfully asked for the US government.

CAPTUREIenvironmental ent

Surely Anders did not imagine at first the impact that his most famous photo would have had.

The image is considered by many to be one of the catalysts of the environmental movement in the United States.

Seal with the image of Earthrise

The United States postal service commemorated the mission with an Earthrise postage stamp in 1969.

"And the photo environmental the most influential that has ever been taken", Says wildlife photographer Galen Rowell on the NASA website.

The picture was included in "The 100 photos that changed the world" in a special edition of Life magazine and was chosen in 1969 for a commemorative postage stamp of Apollo 8.

"I was a teenager when these images were published," the Mexican astronomer told BBC Mundo. Francisco Diego, professor at the University College, one of the centers of the University of London.

"For me, it has a profound and direct message from two points of view: On one side, the unique beauty of our planet, painted blue and white, with brown and green spots here and there. one forthejust like there's nobody in itúNo other fieldorn of ours System SOlar".

"On the other hand, more importantly, the overwhelming reality of the terrifying and insignificant isolation of human existence, the fragility of our environment, our atmosphere, our oceans. A planet with limited resources that we must preserve and exploit wisely".

"A message that unfortunately must be fought to remain alive and present as an essential part of our global culture, because the message has been lost, buried by political and military interests that promote voracious economic systems, aimed at the destruction of this cosmic paradise."

"I have not seen any borders"

In 1968, Earthrise represented a vision of hope in the United States, in a year marked by opposition to the Vietnam War and by the assassins of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

"When I looked at the Earth at that time, I saw no borders, no conflict", Anders recalled in the documentary "Primeros a la Luna".

Photo of the Earth captured by Apollo 8

One of the photos of the Earth taken from Apollo 8. The south pole is above in the image, in which South America is distinguished.

50 years later, the blue and fragile planet captured by Anders faces not only wars but a threat of epic proportions induced by human action, climate change.

Perhaps the anniversary helps us to see with new eyes the living planet that moved the astronauts of Apollo 8.

An emotion that Anders summed up in a few words:

"We went to the moon to explore the moon, but what we discovered was the Earth."

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