50th Anniversary: Earthrise and Apollo 8 at the Moon

50th Anniversary: Earthrise and Apollo 8 at the Moon

Today is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8's day orbiting the Moon. At the end of a tumultuous 1968, NASA crowned the end of the year with the spellbinding achievement of sending people to the Moon for the very first time. These explorers, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, would regale the world with their images and thoughts on another world.

The first clear image of the small, fragile Earth in the distance brought Mission Control to tears, as well as the hundreds of millions of people watching around the world (including the Soviet Union). The three astronauts read aloud the first ten verses of the Bible, that well-known story expressing a poetic creation. 

Just when it seemed the moment couldn't get much better, Borman closed the broadcast with: "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a merry christmas, and god bless all of you – all of you on the Good Earth.”

“The Good Earth”

Lovell would also expound upon the view of Earth from so far away: "The vast loneliness up here of the Moon is awe-inspiring, and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth. The Earth from here is a grand oasis to the big vastness of space.”

A few years ago in college, I took a course instructed by H. Alexander Rich on the History of Photography. One of the assignments was to research and write about an iconic photograph that changed not only photography, but the world as well. For my paper, I chose Earthrise, taken by Bill Anders onboard Apollo 8, which was snapped 50 years ago tonight. The essay is linked through the button below to retain its original formatting.


Here is a fantastic reconstruction by NASA Goddard and Andrew Chaikin of the moment Earthrise was captured:

Also, at the recent Earthrising Gala held by the Kansas Cosmosphere, we got to get up close to the actual camera that took the photo:

(Photo: Author)

(Photo: Author)

As you celebrate the time of year, please keep Apollo 8 in your thoughts, and remember exactly how lucky we are to be part of this Good Earth, and feel grateful every day for our beautiful little Christmas ornament lost in space.


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Videos courtesy of NASA

Cover image - NASA AS08-14-2383 (Courtesy of NASA)

All text and essays property of John A. Gould (see creative commons license below).

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