Far too hectic a week for Advent time, in my opinion — but, then again, I’ve never particularly celebrated Advent as the Episcopal Church encourages us to do. In any case, none of us has had much time, in the preparations for next week, to do much Second Life work — it is Second Life, after all, not the First (and more important) life. But I did take a few minutes to scan through Facebook and various other things, and I was reminded of this event from my childhood.

How many of you know this photograph? Some have called it one of the most important photos ever taken, and I recall it from stamps issued in 1969, in the months before Apollo 11 launched. It is rather prosaically identified in the NASA image catalogue as AS08-14-2382; however, it was popularly given the easier name of Earthrise. It was shot on December 24, 1968 by the crew of Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to fly clear of Terran gravity and orbit another celestial body. One author, Robert Poole, credits this photo with giving rise to the environmental movement 1, though I would suggest it more emphasized the fact that we only know of life on this one spot in the universe.

The photo was not revealed until the film was developed back on Earth, following Apollo 8’s splashdown. (This was 1968, after all, way before digital downloads of images.) But radio and television signals could be transmitted the thousands of miles between Terra and Luna, and the duty personnel at NASA Houston could hear the excitement in the voices of Frank Borman, James Lovell and Bill Anders as they saw Earth ascend above the lunar terminator (the horizon edge of the Moon as they orbited it, a constantly moving value). They instinctively realized that someplace in here was a photograph and a half, and they “scrabbled” (as much as people could in the cramped confines of the Apollo command module) for a roll of color film to record the moment.

Later, during the second scheduled television transmission to Earth, the crew read a “message” for the people of Earth ….


1 Poole, Robert. Earthrise:  How Man First Saw the Earth. New Haven, 2008: Yale University Press. ISBN: 9780300137668. DDC: 525.0222. LC: QB637 .P66 2008. (Cited in Wilford, John Noble (July 13, 2009). “On Hand for Space History, as Superpowers Spar”. The New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2018.)


Posted December 21, 2018 by Harper Ganesvoort in History, Real Life

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