NASA Takes You Inside Apollo 8, Recreates Experience of Taking Iconic Earthrise Photo

When it comes to iconic imagery, there are few individual photographers who can best NASA. From the pale blue dot, to the blue marble, to the amazing photo of Bruce McCandless II floating out into space on the first ever untethered space walk, NASA’s got quite a repository of amazing imagery.

One of those iconic images, dubbed AS8-14-2383 but better known as Earthrise, is about to turn 45 years old on Christmas Eve. And so NASA thought it appropriate to share the story of how luck and teamwork helped the astronauts of Apollo 8 capture this photo.

Besides the fact that the photo is about to celebrate a momentous birthday, the real reason NASA has put together the video reconstruction above is that data from its LRO, combined with images captured by one of the Hasselblads on board Apollo 8, have shed light on exactly how the spacecraft was moving when the picture was taken.

Here’s the photo, although we highly doubt this is the first time you’re seeing it (click here for higher res):


But this recreation isn’t just about sharing data with you, NASA’s Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio takes you INSIDE Apollo 8. You hear the astronauts speaking to one another as Frank Borman initiates a planned roll, and you’re looking out the window when Anders spots the Earth and all three scramble to get him a roll of color film.

We dare you to try and keep the goosebumps at bay when you look out of the spacecraft’s side window alongside astronaut William Anders and see the Earth begin to rise on the horizon. Anders sure couldn’t. From the recording:

Anders: Oh my God, look at that picture over there! There’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!
Borman: Hey don’t take that, it’s not scheduled.
Anders: You got a color film, Jim? Hand me a roll of color, quick, would you?
Lovell: Oh man, that’s great!
Anders: Hurry. Quick.

Lovell: Here.
Anders: I think we missed it…
Lovell: Hey, I’ve got it right here [in the hatch window]
Anders: Let me get it out of this one, it’s a lot clearer.
Lovell: Bill, I got it framed, it’s very clear right here! Got it?
Anders: Yep.

We won’t transcribe any more of it (although we want to) because you’re going to want to listen to the recording yourself. It’s obvious that the astronauts knew what they were capturing as each of them gets excited, telling Anders to take several photos and even suggesting proper camera settings.

Lovell described the Earth as seen from the Moon as “a grand oasis in the vastness of space,” a sentiment captured beautifully by this, one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. And now, we get to very nearly experience the feeling that inspired those words for ourselves. Enjoy!

(via The-Digital-Picture)

  • Scott M

    So cool.

  • svs

    1/250, f11!

  • Philip Han

    “Hey don’t take that, it ‘s not scheduled.”

    This shook me so hard. The amount of times people tell you not to step out of line, to stay in your place, or to stick to the rules and expectations of society is unbelievable. Break free and be responsible!

  • Kevin Purcell

    Borman (the commander) was joking.

    The real joke here though was that no one in the whole planning process in NASA thought that Earthrise over the moon’s horizon would make an interesting photograph (so it wasn’t scheduled on the mission work plan).

    It wasn’t until Anders saw it and realized that would be a great photograph.

    Borman had the black and white camera in reach so he took the first Earthrise shot in B&W (and looks rather good too). It’s image number AS8-13-2329.

    Then Anders took the color shot that everyone knows.

    Finally the shot is rotated 90 degrees from the view as seen from the CM. The lunar horizon was vertical (with respect to the CM as it’s in an equatorial orbit) with earth rising to the left. It was rotated to make it more “earthbound human” friendly.

  • Kevin Purcell

    No metering on the camera so they had two standard exposures with the shutter speed fixed to 1/250 with f/11 for direct sun illumination and f/5.6 for shade (only on the lunar surface for reflected light from the surface).

    The rule is basically “Sunny 16″ for all sun illuminated objects so you don’t really need a meter.