December 20, 2013
It occurred during Apollo 8 as astronauts Jim Lovell, Bill Anders, and Frank Borman were orbiting the Moon—the first humans in history to do so. Their orbital motion brought the Earth into view over the Moon’s horizon, moving slowly upward into the black sky. The photographs taken became a symbol of human exploration, and of our fragile and beautiful planet.
The good folks at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center’s Scientific Visualization Studio took data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and carefully matched it to the photographs taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts, allowing them to recreate the events that led to the history-changing moment. They put together a wonderful video, narrated by my pal Andy Chaikin, which describes how it all happened (and you can get the transcript here).
Wondrous. And the importance of that photo cannot be overstated. Seeing our home world floating by itself, lonely and unprotected, in all that black … it’s been credited for starting the environmental movement, and certainly provides an extraordinary perspective on our place in the Universe.