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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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Flying Free: Iconic NASA Astronaut McCandless Has Died

NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless II during his flight test of the MMU on February 7, 1984. (NASA)

On Feb. 7, 1984, astronaut Bruce McCandless II became the first “human satellite” when he performed the first test flight of NASA’s Manned Maneuvering Unit during STS-41B. Propelled by 24 small nitrogen-powered thrusters, the chair-like MMU allowed McCandless (who helped engineer the Unit at Lockheed Martin) to travel freely through space without any tethers or cords connecting him to a spacecraft. In the iconic image above, an edit of a photo captured by STS-41B pilot Hoot Gibson, McCandless is seen floating against the blackness of space. Here he was just a few feet away from the bay of the space shuttle Challenger, but he would eventually reach a distance of 320 feet (98 meters) from the orbiter!

A former Navy captain and previously Capcom for the Apollo 11 lunar mission, McCandless was 46 years old when he performed his historic tether-free EVA in 1984. This past Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, Bruce McCandless II passed away at the age of 80.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bruce’s family,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “He will always be known for his iconic photo flying the MMU.”

Read NASA’s statement about the death of Bruce McCandless, and read more about McCandless’ historic EVA here.

 

 

Are Alien Bugs Crawling On The Outside Of The ISS?

Photo of the ISS captured from the shuttle Endeavour in July 2009.

Well this is interesting: an article on CNET by Eric Mack, based on a Nov. 27 report from the Russian news agency TASS, discusses findings by Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov that “living bacteria from outer space” were found within samples collected during spacewalks several years ago (Shkaplerov was a member of Expedition 42 in November 2014.)

The samples were swabbed from outside surfaces of the International Space Station, including areas where engine fuel waste is expelled, and brought back to Earth for study. In addition to some terrestrial bacteria that were accidentally brought to the ISS via contaminated computer tablets, there were also living organisms found that “were absent during the launch of the ISS module.”

“That is, they have come from outer space and settled along the external surface,” Shkaplerov stated. “They are being studied so far and it seems that they pose no danger.”

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The First-Known Interstellar Asteroid is Like a Giant Tumbling Torpedo

Artist’s impression of the 400-meter-long interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 `Oumuamua. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser.

Remember that comet-no-wait-asteroid astronomers discovered in October on a high-velocity hyperbolic orbit around the Sun? It has been determined that the object must be of interstellar origin and, based on follow-up observations over the past several weeks, it’s shaped like nothing that’s ever been seen before.

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These Cosmic “Ghosts” Are Some Of The Stranger Things In Our Galaxy

A portion of vdB 141, aka the “Ghost Nebula,” in the constellation Cepheus.

Looking like something out of a Tim Burton movie, the eerie shapes seen here are part of a cloud of gas and dust located 1,470 light-years away in the constellation Cepheus. The transparent anthropomorphic figures with their outstretched “arms” are responsible for the structure’s spooky nickname: the “Ghost Nebula.”

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