December 24, 2013 | David F. Coppedge

Relive the Apollo 8 Earthrise

45 years after Apollo 8’s  historic first, everyone can experience what it was like to see the “blue marble” rise above the limb of the moon.

Detailed “archaeological” work has allowed computer animators to recreate what Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders, the crew of Apollo 8, experienced on Christmas Eve, 1968.

“Oh my God! Look at that picture over there!” exclaimed Anders. “There’s the Earth comin’ up. Wow, is that pretty!”

Andrew Chaikin narrates a new NASA video posted on Space.com that lets the viewer ride along with the astronauts, seeing what they saw out the window.  The picture Anders took, called “Earthrise,” quickly became a space classic, launching music, poetry and commentary about the precious orb, free of national boundaries, that we call home – the only body in the blackness of space where life is known to exist.

NASA researchers, comparing original Apollo photographs with high-resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), were able to locate the exact point in lunar orbit where the experience happened.  Combining original photography with computer animation and the voices of the astronauts, they created the most accurate recreation to date of that historic moment.

The article doesn’t mention it, but later in orbit at lunar sunrise, the astronauts read the story of creation from Genesis 1, before wishing everyone “a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.”  The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating that moment, with the Earthrise picture and the caption, “In the beginning, God…”  Atheists at the time protested the word “God” on the stamp, but responses by many others prevailed, and it was kept.

Only seniors will have a memory of that amazing Christmas Eve when the world stood still and listened to the Bible.  It had been a tumultuous decade, filled with riots, wars, and conflict, with divisions even worse than those we complain about today.  The Cold War was in full swing, Americans were torn over the carnage in Vietnam, leftists were rioting in the cities, the hippie and drug culture were ripping apart families, and traditional values were under assault everywhere.  Interest in the manned space program had waned from the glory days of the “Mercury 7” astronauts; launches had become routine, and after the Apollo 1 disaster, many were questioning the value of the space program with so many pressing ground-based problems.

But then, Apollo 8 raised public interest once again when NASA changed plans, deciding to beat the Russians with a daring mission to lunar orbit.  It was to be the first manned mission away from Earth’s domain.  Within 14 hours after the Earthrise picture was beamed back home, on Christmas Eve, everyone hushed for a moment at news the crew was going to speak.  Bill Anders spoke, from 240,000 miles away, “For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.…”   The world stood still as the crew took turns reading from Genesis 1:1-10….And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.  Millions around the world listened respectfully for those few minutes.  Then they resumed their rioting.

We’re glad NASA has recreated that beautiful day in time for Christmas Eve when the light pierced the darkness.  Take 7 minutes to enjoy it.  Merry Christmas, and God bless you, all of you on the good Earth!

 

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