‘Earthrise’ Captured Earth Like Few Other Photos Have 50 Years Ago

Cesar Mills
December 26, 2018

NASA opted to continue with the mission as Borman recovered and, after a few more course corrections, had the astronauts fire up the big Service Propulsion System (SPS) of the Apollo service module to drop Apollo 8 into orbit around the Moon.

Before going to sleep on Christmas Eve in 1968 as the men hurdled through space, they tried to find the most fitting words to deliver on a live broadcast. I wanted to introduce my children to the heroes of my day - not sports or entertainment personalities - but astronauts, men who used their wits and slide rules to accomplish the unimaginable - reaching the moon. Yet the crew hadn't been told what to say.

The story is replete with Hoosiers, whether born in IN, like Borman; or trained at Purdue Unversity, like Cernan and Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon; or inspired by Apollo to pursue their own space adventures, like Jerry Ross, a Crown Point native who flew seven missions between 1985 and 2002.

The astronauts also took the now iconic "Earthrise" photograph of the Earth behind a lunar landscape. The CIA reported the Soviets might be planning a manned mission by the end of the year. It would be followed, most notably, by the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, and five more successful landings until Chicago native Eugene Cernan left the last boot-prints on the moon December 14, 1972.

Whereupon, in a surge of audacity and élan, NASA switched gears.

The risks were enormous. Anders said, before capturing one of the most important photographs ever taken. But what Apollo 8 did was solidify the one thing that everybody was proud of.

Could the Saturn V and the Apollo spaceship be ready in time? In fact, it had only been tested twice - and the second test, in April, had gone very badly. For Borman, however, the more spacious confines of the Apollo capsule (compared to the cramped Gemini) led to a bout of space sickness. That meant the crew would have no backup engine: no lifeboat. In January 1967, an errant electrical spark had triggered a flash fire that destroyed Apollo 1 during preflight testing, killing three astronauts.

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Happy Apollo 8 anniversary, everyone! Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. both were assassinated. "What's pushing us to go to Mars?" Anders, Lovell and Borman were the first men in history to orbit the moon after their initial Earth-orbit-only flight was scrapped amidst space-race panic vis a vis Russian Federation. Only now, on Christmas Eve day, 1968, nobody knew it. They completed 10 orbits around the moon, spending 20 hours in orbit. We followed their careers as if they were rock stars, watching launch after launch, splash down after splash down, mourning when three of them died before ever taking off, cheering with each success.

Anders also criticized NASA, noting the difference between the agency today and the era of the Apollo program.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth".

"The only color that we could see and contrasted by this really unfriendly, stark lunar horizon, made me think, 'You know, we really live on a lovely little planet, ' " he says. And God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.

Borman, Lovell and Anders were quick studies.

Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live which released an "Apollo 8: Christmas on the Far Side of the Moon" programme, Anders, 85, said sending crews to Mars was "almost ridiculous".

Fred Spier, a senior lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, notes in his article "The Elusive Apollo 8 Earthrise Photo" that Borman and Lovell each played a crucial part in prompting Anders, who had the only colour camera, to take the shot.

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