See the Apollo 8 “Earthrise” in a Whole New Way

One of the most famous images from the history of spaceflight is the picture taken by the crew of Apollo 8 of the “Earthrise” — the first color picture of taken of Earth as it became visible as the spacecraft came from behind the farside of the Moon. The photo was taken 45 years ago on December 24, 1968. It’s been called one of the most influential environmental photographs ever taken, and is one of the most-published pictures ever. As the photographer of this photo, astronaut Bill Anders has said, “We came all this way to discover the Moon. And what we really did discover is Earth.”

The NASA Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio has now released a new video that is a re-creation of that first Earthrise. The video is based on detailed analysis of Apollo 8 photography, including vertical stereo photos that were being taken at the same time as the Earthrise photos, combined with recent topographic models from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

“In the video,” space historian Andrew Chaikin — who narrates the new video — told Universe Today, “we see the Moon’s surface, generated from LRO data, exactly as it appeared to the astronauts through the different windows of the spacecraft. We also hear the astronauts’ voices as captured by the spacecraft’s onboard voice recorder, synchronized with the visual. The video reveals new details about this historic event and the resulting color photograph, which became an icon of the 20th century.”

Enjoy this wonderful new video, which explains how this historic image was taken. The visualization shows how Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman and crew members Anders and James Lovell worked together to photograph the stunning scene as their spacecraft orbited the Moon in 1968. The video allows anyone to virtually ride with the astronauts and experience the awe they felt at the vista in front of them.

The “Earthrise” photo is the cover photo of TIME’s Great Images of the 20th Century, and is the central photo on the cover of LIFE’s 100 Photographs That Changed the World.

“Earthrise had a profound impact on our attitudes toward our home planet, quickly becoming an icon of the environmental movement,” said Ernie Wright, who lead the video project with the SVS.

You can read more details of how the video was put together in this NASA press release.

A computer-generated visualization of the Apollo 8 spacecraft in orbit around the moon, with Earth rising over the horizon.
Image Credit:
Ernie Wright/NASA Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio
Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004. She is the author of a new book on the Apollo program, "Eight Years to the Moon," which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible. Her first book, "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond.

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  • Space exploration expendetures seems an investment good enough, even though the income would be discovering the earth only...!

  • “We came all this way to discover the Moon. And what we really did discover is Earth.” – Bill Anders.

    – It has been wisely observed that, visiting another country broadens one's conceptual horizons, affords insights on the familiar, and new perspective on old landscapes. Enhanced awareness for Country of birth gained, deeper appreciation of homeland afforded, over distance, looking back through foreign frame.

    So it was, when men gazed back in breathless wonder ( if they had had time to relax! ), as they saw the World rise above the stark gray desolation of the alien Moonscape. From whence, humanity began to grasp, as never before, the miracle nature of our Planet's stunning “oasis”-isolation, and perceive its Life-woven unification. Gain sense of place, from curtain drawn to open window, on Earth in Universe of time through space.

    Viewed from Lunar orbit, in velvet sea of unbounded blackness,the Island jewel of Life, beloved Home of Mankind!

    ~ “Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available, a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” — 1948, “attributed to Sir Fred Hoyle.”

    ~ “To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves a riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold—brothers who know now they are truly brothers.” — Archibald MacLeish, American poet, “ 'Riders on earth together, Brothers in eternal cold,' front page of the New York Times, Christmas Day, 25 December 1968.”

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