NASA re-creates historic earthrise photo on Apollo 8 anniversary, in video form

NASA has issued a new visualization of the events leading to one of the iconic photographs of the 20th Century – Earth rising over the moon captured by the crew of the Apollo 8 mission. The dazzling video was created at Goddard with recent data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft and audio records of the 1968 event.

In December of 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 became the first people to leave our home planet and travel to another body in space. But as crew members Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders all later recalled, the most important thing they discovered was Earth.

Using photo mosaics and elevation data from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), this video commemorates the 45th anniversary of Apollo 8's historic flight by recreating the moment when the crew first saw and photographed the Earth rising from behind the Moon. Narrator Andrew Chaikin, author of A Man on the Moon, sets the scene for a three-minute visualization of the view from both inside and outside the spacecraft accompanied by the onboard audio of the astronauts.

The visualization draws on numerous historical sources, including the actual cloud pattern on Earth from the ESSA-7 satellite and dozens of photographs taken by Apollo 8, and it reveals new, historically significant information about the Earthrise photographs. It has not been widely known, for example, that the spacecraft was rolling when the photos were taken, and that it was this roll that brought the Earth into view. The visualization establishes the precise timing of the roll and, for the first time ever, identifies which window each photograph was taken from.

The key to the new work is a set of vertical stereo photographs taken by a camera mounted in the Command Module's rendezvous window and pointing straight down onto the lunar surface. It automatically photographed the surface every 20 seconds. By registering each photograph to a model of the terrain based on LRO data, the orientation of the spacecraft can be precisely determined.

Notable Replies

  1. ackpht says:

    "Calm down, Lovell." That's hilarious.

    If they hadn't had a camera that allowed the film type to be changed mid-roll, they wouldn't have been able to change films fast enough to catch it. Score one for Hasselblad.

  2. That really sounded like a line from "Big Bang Theory". It will enter my lexicon of stock phrases, possibly replacing, "Ripley you've just blown the transaxle, you're just grinding metal. Ease down, Ease down."

  3. A Hasselblad became Sweden's first satellite in 1966 during the Gemini 10 mission when Collins' Hasselblad camera worked itself free and drifted off into orbit.

    Anyway, this is really nice.

  4. George Walton Lucas! You get out of that NASA video editing room RIGHT NOW!

  5. It's also cool that he called out the camera settings for the shot. Tell someone on the street, "two-fifty at f/11" and it's unlikely they'll know what the hell you're talking about.
    That's some great footage. Both that "Earthrise" image and the "Blue marble" image have stayed with me ever since I can recall seeing them, so it's nice to hear how important it was to the astronauts. Gotta say, that's badass--rushing for the camera to grab a shot of Earth rising over the my crappy sunsets any day of the week.

Continue the discussion

5 more replies