Earthrise: Fifty Five years ago today.
On this day, fifty five years ago, Christmas eve 1968, a most spectacular photograph was taken. Now known as Earthrise, the photograph was taken by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, as he and his crewmates Frank Borman and James Lovell orbited the Earth (a total of ten times), paving the way for the Apollo 11 moon landing, just seven months later (July, 1969). These three astronauts were the first humans to reach the moon, and to witness and photograph the far side of the moon and the Earth emerging from behind it.
The first photograph of Earth from the perspective of the moon was taken just moments before Earthrise, in black and white. When Anders saw how glorious was the scene unfolding before him, he asked his crewmates to hand him a roll of color film. I’m glad he did. Both mediums are magnificent.
Just nine years after the Apollo 8 mission, the Voyager 1 space probe launched to explore the fullness of our solar system. After fulfilling this mission, the probe was directed to head into deep space. In 1990, nearly 6 billion miles away from Earth, and at the behest of Carl Sagan, the probe was instructed to turn back toward Earth and take a picture. Now known as the Pale Blue Dot photograph, I think of it as providing a complementary message to that of Earthrise. Here’s some of what Sagan had to say about it:
“The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand… To me, [this distant image] underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Blessings and well wishes to all of you. May we, the world and our nation, enter the new year ahead of us, a year fraught with both peril and promise, mindful of what these pictures convey.