Astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders spent 20 hours circling the Moon ten times. And those 20 hours can be summed up with one stunning picture. A picture of Earth rising over the gray, crater-riddled lunar horizon.
Anders captured one of the most iconic photographs ever taken 50 years ago today.
Back in 2012, Anders shared his experiences with us once again. Anders spoke to NASA about looking back at Earth during their nearly three-day trek to the Moon.
“That’s when I was thinking ‘that’s a pretty place down there,’” says Anders. “It hadn’t quite sunk in like the Earthrise picture did, because the Earthrise had the Earth contrasted with this ugly lunar surface.”
Anders likened this first view of Earth (before the Earthrise picture) to “kind of like the classroom globe sitting on a teacher’s desk, but no country divisions. It was about 25,000 miles away where you could still recognize continents.”
But the view of Earth the trio were about to get would be incredible. It was about three orbits into ten orbits that they saw it. From Anders:
“I don’t know who said it, maybe all of us said, ‘Oh my God. Look at that!’ And up came the Earth. We had had no discussion on the ground, no briefing, no instructions on what to do. I jokingly said, ‘well it’s not on the flight plan,’ and the other two guys were yelling at me to give them cameras. I had the only color camera with a long lens. So I floated a black and white over to Borman. I can’t remember what Lovell got. There were all yelling for cameras, and we started snapping away.”
‘Earthrise’ is one of the most famous photographs from the Apollo era. It stands side-by-side with the greatest space photographs ever taken like The Pale Blue Dot.
And Pillars of Creation.
The near-perfect execution of Apollo 8 would pave the way for the first man on the Moon seven months later.