The astronauts had already turned around the moon a few times, their eyes fixed on the gray moon surface with pockmark. But now, as they completed another moon orbit on Christmas Eve 1968, Frank Borman, the commander of the Apollo 8 mission, rolled the spaceship and soon it was there.
The earth, this bright, beautiful sphere, alone in the vast expanse of space floated a soloist at the edge of the stage in the spotlight.
"Oh, my God," exclaimed Bill Anders, the lunar module's pilot. "Look at that picture over there, the earth is coming up, Wow, that's pretty!"
Anders knew that black and white films would not justify it. But he also knew that he did not have much time to get the shot.
"Give me a quick color, yes," he said.
"Oh man, that's great," said Jim Lovell, the command module pilot and navigator.
"Hurry up," Anders said. "Quick!"
Anders loaded the color film into his Hasselblad camera and began firing while his worried teammates remained mesmerized by the blue and white visions in front of their windows.
"You have it?" Lovell asked.
On December 27, they splashed in the Pacific.
Two days later, the film was edited and NASA released photo number 68-H-1
The press immediately recognized the power of the image, Earth, a brilliant oasis in a desert of darkness. The New York Times had placed it on the front page above the fold. The Washington Post followed a day later. The Life magazine published a photo essay with a double page of the image and lines of James Dickey, the former US Poet Prize Winner: [See] [See the blue planet imbued with his dream / Of Reality.]
"Earthrise," as it would be called, became viral or as viral as it was possible in 1968, when all kinds of photographs left their mark on national consciousness, most of them scars: the South Vietnamese general judged his Gun on the soldier's head, point blank; the Busboy, who cared for Robert F. Kennedy's lifeless body; the civil rights activists on the motel balcony pointing in the direction of the murderer of Martin Luther King Jr.
"Earthrise" was something else. A balm for a nation torn apart by the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, protests and assassinations.
In the foreground was the "magnificent devastation" of the lunar surface, as Buzz Aldrin would call it later – a lifeless planet without color, opposite a distant cousin in the background, as radiant as spring, radiant in blue and white.
Images of the Earth had been taken from space. But these pictures were mostly black and white and blurry. It lacked the liveliness of Anders' image, the still-simplicity and the emotion that could perhaps be explained by the fact that many of the previous photos of robots and "Earthrise" were taken by one human being – "an enthusiastic one Stewart Brand, the founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, wrote this in an interview, "Astronauts, probably homeward-bound astronauts, with their finger on the trigger of this Hasselblad."
Brand had been looking for an image that could bring this country into contact with a move. He had led a campaign and asked, "Why have not we seen a photograph of the whole earth?"
And here came "Earthrise": a photograph that is at once perfect and human imperfect – the sloping horizon, the earth easily removed – center, a rare moment of inaccuracy during a mission based on accurate measurements of their military-trained astronauts ,
In the photo, the earth is an island with a strange and familiar geography. Africa spits out from under the clouds, but the north is to the right, not up, a world turned upside down by the bewildering distance of 240,000 miles.
The United States embarked on this unlikely journey to annihilation, claiming the soviets ultimate climax and national superiority. The astronauts in their flight suits and crew-cuts and pure American legality were the arm of the nation's power, a projection of power. Of course, they returned after the victory – the first men ever to leave Earth's orbit and make a few laps around the moon.
Their triumph celebrated in marquee should be measured by the fiery thrust of Saturn. A rocket propelled them deeper into space than anybody had ever gone before. But it was also found in the unexpected discovery captured in this simple photograph buried in the film rolls they had brought across the land masses without limits, the thin layer of the atmosphere, an unifying expression of vulnerability, something that Pope Paul VI. Saying, recalled "the amazing proportions of the universe in relation to our infinite smallness."
It turned out that the military pilots who became astronauts were also artists.
"Earthrise" soon replaced another dominant image of the time, the mushroom cloud.
"His iconic power disappeared, at least in modern times," Brand said. "Over the course of a few years, a universal symbol based on fear had to give way to a universal symbol based on what people thought was hope and excitement."
"Earthrise" also contributed to the promotion of the environmental movement. That was ironic because so many environmentalists in the 1960s were staunch against the Apollo program. Why spend all that money on space when there are real problems here on Earth?
The first day of Earth was held 16 months later, and today the image remains as a connecting symbol.
"When I look down The earth, which is about as big as your fist at arm's length, I think," This is not a very big place. Why can not we get on with each other? "Said Anders during a video recently played at a ceremony in New York. The Washington National Cathedral is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the mission." It was strange for us that we had worked and had come all the way to the moon to study the moon, and what we really discovered was the earth. "