Apollo 8 Earthrise Image Commemorated With New Video Simulation
December 22, 2013

NASA Unveils New Video Simulation Of Historic ‘Earthrise’ Photo

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

To commemorate the 45th anniversary of the first color image of the Earth ever taken by a person in lunar orbit, NASA has released a new video simulation of the events that led to the iconic ‘Earthrise’ photograph.

Earthrise, which served as the cover photo of Time Magazine’s ‘Great Images of the 20th Century’ and was also featured on the front of Life’s ‘100 Photographs That Changed the World,’ was taken by Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman and crew members William A. Anders and James A. Lovell on December 24, 1968.

[ Watch the Video: Earthrise 45th Anniversary Re-Creation Teaser ]

According to NASA, the new simulation shows how the three astronauts worked together to capture an image of “the stunning scene” as their vehicle orbited the moon. Furthermore, the video “allows anyone to virtually ride with the astronauts and experience the awe they felt at the vista in front of them,” the US space agency added.

“Earthrise had a profound impact on our attitudes toward our home planet, quickly becoming an icon of the environmental movement,” said Ernie Wright, project lead with the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “The Earthrise visualization that we released for Earth Day last year really only scratched the surface.”

The new video, he explains, not only communicates when the photos were taken, but also the exact way in which the spacecraft was pointing and the exact window from which each one was taken. Furthermore, it marks the first time NASA has released a video synched with the onboard audio recording of the crew members.

The new, computer-generated simulation of the event was crafted using data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft, which Wright said was essential to accurately match Apollo photographs to lunar terrain. The new video also made use of the Apollo 8 flight plan, data on the optical properties and the mounting of cameras, the angles and dimensions of Command Module windows, and cloud-cover data from Earth.

“The key to the new work is a set of vertical stereo photographs taken by Apollo 8,” Wright added. “A camera was mounted in the rendezvous window that pointed straight down onto the lunar surface. It took a picture every 20 seconds. When the spacecraft rotated, so did the images. By registering each photo to a model of the terrain from LRO data, we can nail down the timing of the spacecraft's rotation.”

“Along with this new visualization comes news that the first ever ‘Earthrise’ photo, taken by NASA's Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966 and restored and enhanced by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project in 2008, has been sent back to the moon,” the agency added. That image was converted into a 700MB data file and placed in orbit around the moon as part of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission.