On Anniversary Of Apollo 8, How The ‘Earthrise’ Photo Was Made


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The first humans to catch a glimpse of the Earth rising over the moon nearly missed seeing it at all, let alone capturing the snapshot that became one of the most iconic photos of the 20th century.

NASA has released an animation commemorating the 45th anniversary of Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon. The famous "Earthrise" photo was taken on Christmas Eve 1968.

"It really came about by accident," space author Andrew Chaikin, who narrates the video, tells NPR's Morning Edition in an interview that will air Tuesday.

Comparing new data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter probe, which has been circling the moon since 2009, with the Apollo 8 astronauts' photography and Apollo 8's onboard audio, theGoddard Space Flight Center's Scientific Visualization Studio has been able to discover just how serendipitous the famous snapshot was.

"It turns out that the only reason the astronauts saw the Earth when they did was because Frank Borman, the mission commander, was in the process of rotating the spacecraft — which was pointing nose down at the moon," Chaikin tells NPR.

Written By: Scott Neuman
continue to source article at npr.org


  1. This view is visible from orbiting spacecraft, but not from any of the Apollo landing sites. Because the Moon is tidally locked with the same side facing Earth, those sites always face the Earth and never have this view of Earthrise over a Lunar horizon.

    It is a very memorable picture. I still have one of the original 1969 NASA posters which they printed to celebrate the achievement.

  2. Ironic that one the most awe-inspiring vistas ever seen by human eyes was brought about on Christmas eve, not by some superstitious miracle, but by one of the crowning achievements of the human mind – science.

  3. -” became one of the most iconic photos of the 20th century.” I’d go one step further and say it was THE most iconic photo EVER. I still remember seeing it for the first time in 1969 and thinking our blue planet had a lot of white on it and no longer could one deny our planet was round – not flat. jcw

  4. That was a magical time, 1969, when we listened to the first lunar landing, and when this lovely photo became available. I still recall the extraordinary feeling I had when, looking up at the moon a few hours after I had listened to the live transmission of the landing and thinking there were actually people up there now. There was something psychologically transforming about it. This photo of the earth seen over the lunar horizon reaffirmed the same psychological effect. In a sense we knew no more than we did before, but now we had, as a species, traversed the divide between the heavens and the earth and thereby claimed as part of our world that which had always seemed a higher realm.

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