December 24, 2008

NASA Celebrates 40 Years Of Documented Earthrise

Forty years ago, the crew of Apollo 8 reached lunar orbit and filmmaker and historian Dr. Christopher Riley was there when it happened.

Christmas Eve of 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 became the first astronauts to leave Earth's orbit.

During the first three orbits, the spacecraft was not orientated to give them a chance to see the Earth. But as Apollo 8 made its way back from the far side of the Moon for the fourth time, Frank Borman spotted the view from a window, his reaction captured by the on board tape recorder.

"Oh, my God! Look at that picture over there!" he exclaimed. "Isn't that something"¦"

The crew soon scrambled to get a snap of the occasion with their stills camera.

The first photograph of Earthrise taken by a human was in black and white, but Borman's first historic picture is rarely reproduced. The astronauts rushed to find a color film, and Bill Anders managed to snap two more frames that became the choice of photo editors for the rest of history.

Interestingly enough, during the rest of the mission, they did not think to film an Earthrise on their 16mm movie cameras. These Data Acquisition Cameras were carried to record technical mission moments.

The Apollo 8 crew would also use them to film each other messing around the ship, but it seems that they were too busy with their other scheduled tasks that Christmas Eve to film mankind's first Earthrise.

During Apollo 12, the fourth expedition to lunar orbit, filming the Earth rising from behind the Moon had lost its magic and was only captured once through a slightly fogged window. It was the last Earthrise ever filmed during the Apollo era.

These images and hundreds of other still pictures taken of the whole Earth during Apollo's nine flights to the Moon, helped to drive the momentum of a burgeoning green movement during the 1970s.
Before now, only 24 human beings ever laid eyes on a view of the whole Earth from space. But thanks to a new generation of missions carrying high-resolution cameras beyond Earth orbit, moving HD footage of the whole planet is now available for all to see.

Almost two years ago, the Japanese lunar mission Selene transmitted back the first movies of Earthrise from lunar orbit since Apollo.

However, a NASA project called The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) was conceived at the end of the 20th Century to stream a continuous live color image of the Earth from a million miles out in space. The data from DSCOVR was designed to help with modeling climate change.

The project, dubbed "Goresat" was never launched under the Bush presidency, as some suggested that DSCOVR would not have helped the cause of an administration committed to a path of oil dependency.

The satellite still rests in storage at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, awaiting the green light.

Maybe under a new administration, and to mark the 40th anniversary of humankind's first vision of the Earth from space, the public may soon get its first daily reminder of the planet we call home.


Image Courtesy Of NASA


On The Net:


The first Earthrise (Nasa)

Apollo 40th birthday celebrations

All nine Earthrise sequences