I usually write my articles one day in advance. Yesterday, I had written about a very horrible war photograph. It was to be published today but because today is Christmas; I decided to bring you a delightful photograph to match with the festive mood of the day. As a result, yesterday, I ended up writing two articles. You may be surprised that the photograph that I am presenting today was also taken on the Christmas eve in 1968!… That means that I wrote the following piece exactly 42 years after the photograph was taken.
The photograph you are seeing here is called the Earthrise (on the lines of sunrise). As the name suggests, the photograph shows planet earth coming up on the horizon of moon. This spectacular photograph was taken by an astronaut named William Andres during the Apollo 8 space mission of NASA.The spacecraft had William “Bill” Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman as crew.
Andres took this photograph from the lunar orbit on 24 December 1968 with a Hasselblad camera. Interestingly, while Andres was trying to find 70mm color film roll, the mission commander Frank Borman took a black and white photograph of the same scene (with the only difference being that the earth is seen touching the lunar horizon in his photo). Following words were spoken between Borman and Andres when they took photos.
Borman: Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.
Anders: Hey, don’t take that, it’s not scheduled.
Borman: (laughing) You got a color film, Jim?
Anders: Hand me that roll of color quick, will you…
William Anders recalls taking this photograph in an interview with Askmen.com:
My side window was clear — the rest had an oil scraped on them — and my great photographic technique was to point this thing at the moon and click, changing F-stops with every click. As it turned out, one of my color long-lens pictures was decided by NASA to be the official “Earthrise.” So I’m getting Emmys and being made a member of the photographer’s union, all the while thinking this is a little phony. “Earthrise” isn’t that good a picture if you really look at it; it’s not quite in focus. Photographers are probably jealous this was picked as one of the top pictures of the 20th century. I mean, you’ve got to be kidding! But right place, right time.
To mark the 45th anniversary of this photograph, in 2013, NASA released a simulated video that shows Earthrise taking place. In this simulation video, you will be able to see the Earthrise exactly the way astronauts of Apollo 8 saw it. A very exciting video, I would say. Take a look! It also gives you more information about the original photograph itself:
Entering in the moon orbit, was so significant moment that to impress it, the crew read a part of Bible that tells us how the world was created by God. The Apollo 8 crew read a few lines from the Book of Genesis (part of Bible). This reading was televised all over the Earth. Here is what each of the crew members read:
Bill Anders read:
We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
Then Jim Lovell read:
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And thus Frank Borman ended the reading:
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
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.
Now a few interesting nuggets:
- Anders famously said about this photo “We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth”
- Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to leave earth’s orbit and go beyond it. This made Borman, Anders and Jim Lovell the first humans to reach into the moon’s orbit.
- In 1969, the US Postal Service issued a stamp featuring the Earthrise photograph by Anders. The stamp bears the words “In the beginning God…”
- A lawsuit was filed against the US government alleging violations of the First Amendment (due to reading by the crew). The US Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit due to lack of jurisdiction!
- Apollo 8 went into lunar orbit on December 24 and made ten orbits of the Moon in 20 hours before returning to Earth.
- There has been a bit of semi-humorous scuffle between Anders and Borman as to who took the first photograph of the rising earth. It appears Borman took the first photograph but it was black and white.
Life magazine listed this photograph among the 100 Photographs that Changed the World. I have written articles on several photos included in this list. For example, View from the Window at Le Gras (first photograph ever take), first x-ray image, The Horse in Motion and Migrant Mother etc.
What do you think of this photograph and the story behind it? Please comment and give your feedback as it helps me in writing better content for my readers. Thank you for reading and stay connected with my website as I will continue to bring stories on more iconic photographs for you.