Apollo 8 Astronaut Bill Anders Reflects on Earthrise Picture

by Nancy Atkinson on April 22, 2008

In December of 1968, the Apollo 8 capsule had successfully gone into orbit around the moon and the crew was busy taking pictures of the lunar surface. On the third orbit, as the Apollo spacecraft was coming around from behind the moon, commander Frank Borman lookup up and called out, “Wow! Look at that!” The Earth was “rising” over the stark lunar horizon. Borman had a camera with black and white film, and he actually took the first picture of Earth rising over the moon. But Bill Anders had a color camera with a long lens, and he took the color photo that’s become an icon, known simply as “Earthrise.”

On Earth Day, Bill Anders reflected on the famous picture that’s become one of the most frequently used images ever.

Anders said even though it wasn’t in the original flight plan to take pictures of Earth, it didn’t take much time for him to realize how striking this view of the Earth was, and quickly snapped the celebrated image.

“I instantly thought it was ironic; we had come all this way to study the moon, and yet it was this view of the Earth that was one of the most important events for Apollo 8,” said Anders in an interview on NASA TV.

“There are basically two messages that came to me,” Anders said of the picture. “One of them is that the planet is quite fragile. It reminded me of a Christmas tree ornament. But the other message to me, and I don’t think this one has really sunk in yet, is that the Earth is really small. We’re not the center of the universe; we’re way out in left field on a tiny dust mote, but it is our home and we need to take care of it.”

Anders said it didn’t take long after the crew had returned home for this photograph to become iconic for the environmental movement.

“Back in the 60’s it gave us a sense that the world was a place we all shared together,” Anders said. “We couldn’t see any boundaries from space.”

In addition to the important pictures of Earth, the Apollo 8 crew also photographed many smaller lunar features, that were previously undiscovered. Those features are located principally on the farside of the Moon in areas that had been photographed only at much greater distances by early robotic spacecraft. The Apollo 8 mission yielded more than 150 photographs of the Earth and more than 700 photographs of the Moon.

Original News Source: NASA TV


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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