Apollo 8's famous 'Earthrise' photo taken 50 years ago today

Former NASA astronaut says sending people to Mars

Apollo astronaut thinks sending humans to Mars is ‘almost ridiculous’

On Christmas Eve 50 years ago, Frank Borman, Bill Anders and Jim Lovell were orbiting the moon on a mission to find the optimal spots for a potential moon landing, but the mission took a turn when the crew noticed Earth peeking out over the lunar horizon. "Wow, is that pretty!" exclaimed Anders.

"Oh my God, look at that picture over there!" Anders said. "There's the Earth coming up". So I floated a black and white over to Borman. "The only telegram I remember out of all the thousands we got after Apollo 8 said, 'Thank you Apollo 8 you saved 1968, ' " he said.

Lovell: Oh man, that's great!

"I think Nasa's lucky to have what they've got - which is still hard, in my mind, to justify".

The crew splashed down in the Pacific on December 27.

It's been 5- years since the Apollo 8 launch, which was the first manned mission to orbit the moon. The world map in Theatrum depicts an Earth in light brown, blue and red, dark yellow and green, with a dark blue, nearly black space surrounding it. The New York Times ran it on its front page above the fold.

The surprising recitation (NASA's only instructions to the astronauts: "Do something appropriate") was watched, live, by the biggest TV audience in history up to that time.

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"Earthrise" was something different.

Without access to media due to his service in the Vietnam War, Michael Sauvante's recollection of the year's political events is spotty.

The astronauts also took the now iconic "Earthrise" photograph of the Earth behind a lunar landscape. "It transformed the environmental movement into what it became in the immediate aftermath of that image".

SEVIGNY: So what did you see in the photograph?

Even though it would fly farther than any manned spaceship ever had and produce a photograph of the Earth from the perspective of the moon that's widely credited with launching the environmental movement, Borman said he had one overriding objective on the trip.

In the photo, Earth is an island with a geography both odd and familiar.

"It was 240,000 miles away".

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If ever fortune favored the courageous, it favored NASA and the crew of Apollo 8.

Bill Anders, who was one of the first people to leave Earth, not only doesn't see the point of future manned missions, he is downright against them.

Could the Saturn V and the Apollo spaceship be ready in time? "One of them actually picked up the capsule and placed it on the flight deck of the USS Yorktown", he said.

'The striking image in "Earthrise" - of a lovely planet, all by itself (aside from a barren moonscape) - conveyed a clear message that we must all come together to save it. "What's the imperative? What's pushing us to go to Mars?", the pioneering astronaut asked. "In the course of a couple years, you had a universal icon based on fear give way to a universal icon based on what people thought of as hope and excitement". Which was ironic since so many environmentalists in the 1960s were steadfastly against the Apollo program.

LOVELL: By that time, I got down there, saw that we lost two fuel cells.

NASA hadn't known what the astronauts were going to say, writes Robert Kurson in "Rocket Men", a gripping account of Apollo 8's odyssey.

Anders, who now lives in Anacortes, has been featured in national and worldwide media this week, marking the 50th anniversary of that famous mission and memorable photograph from December 1968. And since the sun circled the Earth, and not the other way around those days, Apollo was guaranteed to get a spectacular view of our planet from above and afar as he rode his chariot.

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