Dec. 24: Earthrise: First seen from space 50 years ago today.

December 24, 2018 • 10:34 am

Reader Jon sent me the link to this NASA video of “Earthrise”, first seen on this day in 1968. I’ll just put up Jon’s comment and the reconstructed video, based on both photos and analyses of where the spacecraft was when Earthrise was seen. In fact, I’m posting this at the exact time when Earthrise began on December 24.

In a video entitled “Earthrise in 4K” NASA recreated the moment when the Apollo 8 astronauts first saw and photographed the Earth rising from behind the Moon on December 24, 1968. They used current photo mosaics and elevation data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to determine the exact location and orientation of the capsule. “Narrator Andrew Chaikin, author of “A Man on the Moon,” sets the scene for a three-minute visualization of the view from both inside and outside the spacecraft accompanied by the onboard audio of the astronauts.”

Remember when Ander’s spotted Earthrise and Frank Borman joked, “Hey don’t take that, it’s not scheduled.”?

As Chaikin points out at the end of the video, this year the International Astronomical Union commemorated the event by renaming a twenty-five mile diameter crater visible in the Earthrise photograph “Anders’ Earthrise.”

26 thoughts on “Dec. 24: Earthrise: First seen from space 50 years ago today.

  1. Apollo 8 was spoiled for me by Jim Lovell’s goddiness. I still wonder what he thought his god meant by making sure he was on 13 before he blew it up.

    1. There does appear to be a preponderance of religious astronauts, especially the earliest members. Perhaps this is due to so many coming from the military. I wonder if the religiosity of astronauts might be somehow related to their backgrounds. I would expect mission specialist from science backgrounds to be less religious than those from engineering, who would be less so than the military test pilots. I’m not sure anyone has done a study but I would be interested to know if this is true.

      1. Quite possibly, though Lovell does seem to be religious:

        Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM, their crewmate Jim Lovell also reflected on the Earthrise moment: “When I looked at the Earth itself… I started to wonder why I was here, what’s my purpose here… it sort of dawned me,” he said.

        “And my perspective is that God has given mankind a stage on which to perform. How the play turns out, is up to us.”

        I always thought that the Establishment Clause should have stopped the awful reading that he gave from orbit, given that NASA is a government agency.

        The Beeb have a progammer featuring Frank Borman and Bill Anders/a> – I haven’t listened yet but I will, since Lovell isn’t included.

        1. Time to stop typing, I blame string beer.

          Lovell does seem to be particularlyreligious

          At least the link works, despite the formatting having descended into farce.

      2. @Christopher I’m guessing you know most of this, so forgive if that is so!


        The first US human astronaut selection program was in 1959 & the minimum requirement was American citizen, male, military test pilot in possession of a science-based bachelors degree [so tough luck Chuck Y].

        A typical astronaut of that time would have the same sort of steady, can do, will do mentality as any military officer serving in any branch of the nuclear triad: ICBM ‘Missileer’, SAC aircrew or SSBN submariner. We are talking about utterly reliable, deeply conservative men who willingly swam along with the standard values of the time among white, middle America – if NASA could have cloned a young Jimmy Stewart they would have done so [Jimmy served in SAC & would have dropped his buckets of sunshine if ordered to] – it took a further quarter century for an American black man or an American woman to get into space. Dirty Commie David Crosby types, poets of any description, gays, rebels, pot smokin’ divorcees & swingers need not apply.

        Professed atheists? No bleedin’ chance ~ you kept such things to yourself. In those days having a professed & visible religious outlook was a stamp of quality. A cookie cutter wife & two kids helped. It is no coincidence that the first American human into space was a believing Presbyterian & Freemason John Glenn – a lover of institutions & tradition.


        If you ever want to experience excruciating boredom then spend the evening dining with a table full of pro golfers, pro athletes or apex military aviators such as those flying off carriers [I’m referring to active not retired in all three cases] ~ all that discipline & single mindedness doesn’t allow for many Pierre Henri Clostermann’s or Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s to flourish – they wash out during the years of committing to perfection & not forgetting a step [the forgetful pilots wash out eternally].

        Around 1987 a chap called Frank White coined the term THE OVERVIEW EFFECT to describe the temporary or permanent cognitive shift experienced by those who’ve gone to space & joined the select club of people who can cover all the rest of humanity with a raised thumb. These are people who can do the right thing 100% of the time, but who aren’t known for skills in the art of haiku. The term “God” will come up a lot when free expression has been screwed down firmly out of sight all ones life. A few are bound to wonder off the reservation & reportedly they have – no coping tools named Bob Dylan.

        1. I would not argue the overall critique, it is just about right for those college generated boys in the officer group. However, we must remember, John Glenn was a democrat and you will run into one or two from time to time. More I think among the enlisted as they are a more diverse crowd. However, atheist, that is very thin. I am the only one I know for sure. It use to be in America that marrying outside your religion was a no no, but today it is worse to marry outside the party.

          1. If I’ve read you correctly. I didn’t say anybody was atheist, only that if they were they wouldn’t profess it in the 50s/60s.

            1. I got that. I’m just saying I never came across one during my experience in the service. What I have seen over the years are, many that seemed reasonably open or at least normal became much more right wing conservative than I ever would have thought. Very disappointing.

        2. Well, Glenn was later a senator from Ohio who was a Democrat. So, he may have been more than a conservative stiff. At least later on.

              1. Glenn was a firm believer, strengthened in his faith by his space experiences. And the Christian evangelicals never stop saying so.

  2. Some have said, with good reason, that the Earthrise photos from Apollo changed everything. An inflection point in history. I’m glad I was around (though a child) to witness it.

  3. I had that photo on a poster in my bedroom when I was a kid — but it means a whole lot more to me now that I’m old!

  4. If this is a where was I then, not sure I even remember this specific event. Was in the Air Force at the time, still in school at Sheppard AFB, and no Television anywhere.

  5. I was still building myself in the womb, but would emerge in 4 months.

    Thanks for the video. It’s sort of sad to me though, knowing what poor stewards of this beautiful planet we humans are.

  6. Very fine film. This is a reconstruction of an historic event a bit like the film recently released – They Shall Not Grow Old. In both cases the original material was enhanced using modern technology and data. They are each an attempt to allow us latecomers to experience past events in an extraordinarily vivid way, as if you were there. Delightfully worthwhile.

  7. 1903: The first, manned, heavier than air flight.
    1969: The first man steps on the moon.

    Just 66 years. What did religion ever do in such a short time — except torture and murder humans?

    “Science, bitches, ‘cos you can’t pray that shit into space.”

    BTW: Neil Armstrong carried a small piece of the Wright Brothers’ first plane to the moon and back.

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