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Apollo 8: Humanity’s First Earthrise—and First Christmas—from the Moon

“We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”
– William Anders, Apollo 8 Commander

Photo of the Earth beyond the Moon (AS08-14-2383) captured by Apollo 8 on Dec. 24, 1968.

On Christmas Eve, December 24, 1968, the Apollo 8 CSM entered orbit around the Moon and, after completing 4 full orbits, provided the three astronauts on board with an amazing sight: a blue Earth rising* beyond the Moon’s cratered limb. Commander Frank Borman spotted the scene first and, after taking a 70mm black-and-white photograph, was able to rotate the Command Module so Earth remained in view through the small windows while CM pilot Jim Lovell captured this famous image on color film. It was the first time any humans saw the Earth from the vicinity of the Moon…and it was also the first Christmas that astronauts spent in space.

“The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth,” Jim Lovell said.

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The First Christmas From the Moon

“We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”
– Bill Anders, Apollo 8

"Earthrise" from Apollo 8, December 24, 1968 (NASA)

“Earthrise” from Apollo 8, December 24, 1968 (NASA)

On Christmas Eve 46 years ago, December 24, 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts entered orbit around the Moon and came upon an amazing sight: a blue Earth “rising*” beyond the tan-grey desolation of the lunar surface. Commander Frank Borman spotted the scene first was able to rotate the Command Module so Earth remained in view through the small windows, while CM pilot Jim Lovell snapped this photograph onto a roll of color film that Lunar Module Pilot Bill Anders was able to quickly locate for him. It was the first time humans saw the Earth from the Moon in person, and it was also the first Christmas astronauts spent in space.

“The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth,” Jim Lovell said.

Read the rest of this entry

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