Apollo 8’s Famous Earthrise Image: The Story Behind It

  • “Earthrise” is the initial image of Earth captured by humans from space
  • The photo of Earth was taken by Bill Anders, a lunar module pilot, aboard Apollo 8. It was taken on December 24, 1968.
  • The image was taken against the vast blackness in space, and it highlighted Earth’s fragility.

On December 24, 1968 — exactly 54 years ago — Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim LovellWilliam Anders was the next to be elected. first humans to circle the moon.

The historic mission was memorable, but equally memorable was the famous photo “Earthrise”, which showed Earth rising above lunar landscapes.

Our blue marble was so far away that no human eye had ever seen it before.

Life Magazine’s 100 Photographs That Changed the World features the acclaimed wilderness. photographer Galen Rowell describedThe unprecedented view of Earth is “the most influential environmental photo ever taken.”

People became more aware of the fragility of our planet by seeing it as small and vulnerable in space.

“Earthrise”, one of the most widely reproduced space photos, was featured on US stamps, posters and the cover for Time magazine in 1969. Many have pointed out the irony of the photo, since Apollo 8 was sent to study and take pictures of the moon’s surface — not Earth.

Robert Zimmerman wrote in his book, “Of all NASA’s objectives before launch,” that no one had considered photographing the Earth from Lunar orbit.Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8: the First Manned Flight to Another World.”

The famous photo was taken during the fourth orbit around the moon. At that point, the orbit of the spacecraft had changed, making it possible for the Earth to be visible above the lunar horizon. 

Apollo 8

From left toright: Apollo 8 crew James A. Lovell Jr., William A. Anders and Frank Borman are photographed in space suits at Kennedy Space Center simulator.


None of the astronauts were ready for the moment, not even Anders, lunar module pilot ander, who was given the responsibility of photography.

In interview for a BBC documentaryAnders described the sequence of events in 2012 as follows: “I don’t remember who said it, but maybe all of us said, “Oh my God!” Look at that! And then the Earth rose. We had not had any discussion on the ground. There was no briefing or instruction on what to do. I joked that it wasn’t on the flight plan and the two other guys shouted at me to get their cameras. I had the only long-lens color camera. So I flew a black and a white camera to Borman. I don’t know what Lovell got. All of us started snapping away after we shouted for cameras.

Borman and Anders claimed initial responsibility for the now-famous photo. Later, transcripts revealed that Borman, who recognized the significance of the moment, took a black and white photo before Anders took the famous color photograph.

Fred Spier, a senior lecturer from the University of Amsterdam, wrote his article “The Elusive Apollo 8 Earthrise PhotoBorman and Lovell were each crucial in convincing Anders, who only had a color camera, to take this shot.

Spier writes that Frank Borman, an experienced astronaut, was the first to notice the importance of the photo. James Lovell, an equally experienced astronaut was quick to follow his lead.” “Space rookie William Anders took the photos. Anders had to adhere to a very strict and well-defined photo plan. There was no room for spontaneity.

Spier continued: “Anders first resisted, then he quickly did what the other instructed him to do.” It is now clear that Anders took the famous photograph, but it seems fair to say that the picture was also the result of the combined efforts by all three astronauts.

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