Rediscovering the Legendary Earthrise Image from Apollo 8 [Video Overview]

by Hiroshi Tanaka
Earthrise Story

This video showcases the digitally enhanced Earthrise photo. The original black and white image, taken by the Apollo 8 crew, was colorized using authentic hues from the crew’s color photographs. Attribution goes to NASA, Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders; the image was processed and licensed by Jim Weigang, under CC BY-SA.

On the historic day of December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 crew members Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders had the unprecedented experience of seeing Earth emerge over the desolate lunar landscape. This momentous occasion has been brought back to life using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Video Description:

[Background music] The groundbreaking moment for humanity occurred on December 24th, 1968, when the Apollo 8 crew, consisting of Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, orbited the Moon and witnessed the awe-inspiring Earthrise for the first time. Now, with the aid of recent data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), we have the opportunity to view this historic event just as the astronauts did. The comprehensive lunar maps from the LRO, combined with the crew’s photographs, help pinpoint Apollo 8’s location and orientation in space at the time they first observed Earth rise above the lunar horizon.

[Background music] The Earthrise was first observed around 10:30 am Houston time as Apollo 8 was completing its fourth orbit behind the Moon. Frank Borman, the Mission Commander, was situated in the left seat, adjusting the spacecraft’s position as per the flight plan. Jim Lovell, the Navigator, was in the lower equipment bay, aligning lunar landmarks with the onboard sextant, while Bill Anders, in the right seat, was observing the Moon and capturing images with a Hasselblad camera equipped with a 250-mm telephoto lens.

Simultaneously, another Hasselblad camera, fitted with an 80-mm lens, was mounted in Borman’s front window, continuously photographing the Moon every twenty seconds. These photos, when correlated with LRO’s detailed lunar maps, indicate that it was during Apollo 8’s rotation, orchestrated by Borman, that Earthrise, previously unnoticed in the prior three orbits, became visible in Bill Anders’s window.

This video, created from LRO data by Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio, features the astronauts’ own voice recordings from the onboard tape recorder. The footage begins with Borman initiating the roll maneuver, followed by the Earth rising and transitioning from one window to the next as Apollo 8 rotates.

Borman: Initiating roll. Ready… Set…

Anders: Observing a crater near the subsolar point with a dark spot, possibly volcanic.

Anders: Oh my God, look at that picture over there! Earth’s rising. Incredible!

Borman: Hey, don’t capture that. It’s off the schedule.

[Camera shutter clicks]

Anders: Jim, do you have color film? Hand me a roll of color, quick!

Lovell: Oh man, that’s amazing.

Anders: Hurry up.

Lovell: Where?

Anders: Just get me a color roll.

Lovell: Searching, found one – C 368.

Anders: Anything, quickly.

Lovell: Here.

Anders: We might have missed it.

Lovell: No, it’s perfect here [in the hatch window].

Anders: I’ll capture it here, the view’s clearer.

Lovell: Bill, it’s perfectly framed here!

[Camera shutter clicks]

Lovell: Captured?

Anders: Yes.

Lovell: Take more, pass it here!

Anders: Wait, setting it right. Keep calm.

Lovell: Take –

Anders: Relax, Lovell!

Lovell: It’s a stunning shot…Two-fifty at f/11.

[Camera shutter clicks]

Anders: Done.

Lovell: Change the exposure a bit.

Anders: I did. Captured two.

Lovell: Sure you got it?

Anders: Yes, it’ll appear again.

[Background music] For the astronauts, the Earthrise was a profound and electrifying experience. One of the three photos taken by Bill Anders became an emblematic image of the 20th century.

In 2018, the International Astronomical Union honored this moment by naming a 25-mile diameter crater “Anders’ Earthrise.” A smaller crater nearby was named “Eight Homeward,” both visible in the famous Earthrise photo.

Narrated by Andrew Chaikin, author of “A Man on the Moon.”

[Background music][Sound of satellite beeping]

The prime crew of Apollo 8 is shown in Building 29 post-suiting up for centrifuge training at the MSC’s Flight Acceleration Facility. From left to right: William A. Anders, lunar module pilot; James A. Lovell Jr

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Apollo 8 Earthrise

What is the significance of the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo?

The Apollo 8 Earthrise photo is historically significant as it was the first time humans captured the image of Earth rising over the Moon’s horizon. It symbolizes humanity’s first journey to the Moon and provides a unique perspective of our planet, highlighting Earth’s fragility and the unity of human existence.

Who were the astronauts on the Apollo 8 mission?

The Apollo 8 mission was crewed by astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders. These astronauts became the first humans to orbit the Moon and witness the Earthrise.

How has the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo been preserved and enhanced?

The original black and white Earthrise photo taken by the Apollo 8 crew was colorized using hues from their color photographs. This process was carried out by Jim Weigang, and the restored image provides a clearer and more vivid representation of the historic moment.

What contributions did NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter make to understanding the Earthrise event?

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) provided detailed lunar maps and data that helped in recreating the Apollo 8 Earthrise event. It helped pinpoint the exact location and orientation of Apollo 8 when the Earthrise photo was taken, allowing for a more accurate visualization of the historic event.

How did the Apollo 8 mission influence subsequent space missions?

Apollo 8 was a major milestone in space exploration, being the first human spaceflight to reach the Moon and orbit it. The mission’s success was instrumental in paving the way for future lunar missions, including Apollo 11, which achieved the first manned Moon landing. The Earthrise photo itself became an iconic symbol of space exploration and Earth’s place in the universe.

More about Apollo 8 Earthrise

  • NASA’s Apollo 8 Overview
  • Earthrise: A Photo That Changed How We See Ourselves
  • The Story of the Apollo 8 Earthrise Photo
  • Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Role in Apollo Missions
  • Biography of Frank Borman
  • Jim Lovell: Apollo 8 Astronaut
  • William Anders and the Iconic Earthrise Photo
  • Apollo 8’s Impact on Space Exploration History

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Jane Doe November 20, 2023 - 12:06 am

Isn’t it “Frank Borman” not “Borman Frank”? got a bit confused reading this but overall great job on the details.

Mike Johnson November 20, 2023 - 12:40 am

really interesting article, always amazed by what those astronauts achieved! can’t imagine being the first to see earth like that.

RickyBobby November 20, 2023 - 1:42 am

wow those Apollo guys were real heroes, the earthrise photo is just mindblowing, makes you think about how small we all are in the universe.

Sarah K November 20, 2023 - 3:32 am

I think there’s a typo in the part about the LRO? It says “lunar maps” but shouldn’t it be “lunar mapping” or something?

SpaceFanatic November 20, 2023 - 7:56 am

Missed mentioning the impact of Earthrise photo on environmental movements, it’s such a crucial part of its legacy!


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