On December 24, 1968, the crew of Apollo 8, the second human spaceflight mission in the US Apollo space program, were the first humans to witness an Earthrise. The first Earthrise is photographed by astronauts on board Apollo 8. It is one of the most famous photos ever taken and became the symbol of one the greatest explorations in history: humans’ first journey to another world, and when the crewmembers looked back, they saw their home planet.
Apollo 8 was launched on December 21, 1968, from Cape Kennedy, Fla., and became the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth orbit, reach the Moon, orbit it, and return safely to Earth.
The three-astronaut crew (Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders) became the first humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit, the first to see Earth as a whole planet, the first to directly see the far side of the Moon, and then the first to witness Earthrise. It was an important prelude to actually landing on the Moon was testing the flight trajectory and operations for getting there and back.
Apollo 8 took three days to travel to the Moon. Then orbited it ten times over the course of 20 hours. The Apollo 8 astronauts returned to Earth on December 27, 1968, when their spacecraft splashed down in the Northern Pacific Ocean.
Last year, NASA recreated the iconic Apollo 8 Earthrise, after 45 years. Using photo mosaics and elevation data from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), this video commemorates the 45th anniversary of Apollo 8’s historic flight by recreating the moment when the crew first saw and photographed the Earth rising from behind the Moon.
Narrator Andrew Chaikin, the author of A Man on the Moon, sets the scene for a three-minute visualization of the view from both inside and outside the spacecraft accompanied by the onboard audio of the astronauts.
The first earthrise – a documentary
The visualization draws on numerous historical sources, including the actual cloud pattern on Earth from the ESSA-7 satellite and dozens of photographs taken by Apollo 8, and it reveals new, historically significant information about the first Earthrise photographs. It has not been widely known, for example, that the spacecraft was rolling when the photos were taken, and that it was this roll that brought the Earth into view. The visualization establishes the precise timing of the roll and, for the first time ever, identifies which window each photograph was taken from.
The key to the new work is a set of vertical stereo photographs taken by a camera mounted in the Command Module’s rendezvous window and pointing straight down onto the lunar surface. It automatically photographed the surface every 20 seconds. By registering each photograph to a model of the terrain based on LRO data, the orientation of the spacecraft can be precisely determined.
This video is in the public domain and can be downloaded at http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?4129