It was Christmas Eve in 1968 when three brave astronauts, the first humans to leave Earth orbit, circled the moon. As the 45th anniversary of that event approaches, NASA has released a video that recreates the iconic Earthrise image that has captivated the world since.
Using imagery obtained from its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the video released by NASA yesterday allows viewers to see Earthrise as it was first witnessed 45 years ago.
Audio from the Apollo 8 mission provides commentary from the astronauts as they conducted routine observations – until the spacecraft oriented itself to allow them view the planet. The astronauts then scramble to get cameras in place to capture the event.
Apollo 8 was launched on December 21, 1968 with astronauts Frank Borman, William A. Anders and James A. Lovell riding their Saturn V rocket into space. Following three days of transit, the crew inserted themselves into orbit around the moon.
On their fourth trip around our only natural satellite, the crew became the first humans to witness Earthrise – our blue marble rising above another planetary body.
On Christmas Eve the astronauts conducted a live broadcast to Earth during which they recited from the Book of Genesis.
Commander Borman closed the transmission with the words, "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."
The timing of the mission and the realization of what man had accomplished helped to make the Earthrise image one of the most iconic in history. It was in fact one of Life Magazine's 100 Photographs that Changed the World.
Jim Lovell famously said during the mission, “The vast loneliness up here of the moon is awe inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth. The Earth from here is a grand [oasis] to the big vastness of space.”