Apollo 8 'Earthrise' photographer calls Northwest home

Apollo 8 'Earthrise' photographer calls Northwest home

50 years ago, three NASA astronauts embarked on a journey that would take them "Round the moon and back".

Lastly, there was the photo named "Earthrise", showing our blue and white ball - humanity's home - rising above the bleak, gray lunar landscape and 240,000 miles (386 million kilometers) in the distance. A half-century later, only 24 US astronauts who flew to the moon have witnessed these wondrous sights in person.

NASA opted to continue with the mission as Borman recovered and, after a few more course corrections, had the astronauts fire up the big Service Propulsion System (SPS) of the Apollo service module to drop Apollo 8 into orbit around the Moon.

Liftoff of the Saturn V occurred on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 21, 1968. "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.

But the former astronaut is scathing about how Nasa has evolved since the heady days of President John F Kennedy's pledge to land a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s.

As the bleak moonscape swept past below them, they read from the Book of Genesis: "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth".

To the relief of mission controllers, fixes added by engineers aimed at reducing the vibrations (of "pogo") that had almost led to the loss of the previous Saturn V launch worked, and the combined stack of the S-IVB third stage, service module and command module were slotted into Earth orbit.

But on Christmas Eve, 1968, the capsule made it to the lunar orbit.

On Christmas Eve, the spaceship successfully slipped into orbit around the moon. Lovell bought the coat for his wife and arranged its fancy delivery before liftoff. The mission capped a hard and conflict-filled year in the US, offering a rare moment when people could feel good about their planet.

And here came "Earthrise": a photo at once flawless and humanly imperfect - the tilted horizon, Earth slightly off-center, a rare moment of imprecision during a mission that relied on exact measurements from its military-trained astronauts.

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"Oh my God, look at that picture over there! Wow, is that pretty!" Earthrise was the first step toward the "Pale Blue Dot" perspective-that we are, as Carl Sagan would say, living "on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people". The astronauts were under orders to get pictures for potential lunar landing sites while orbiting 70 miles (112 kilometers) above the moon. But he says the public support simply isn't there to fund vastly more expensive human missions.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's PM, their crewmate Jim Lovell also reflected on the Earthrise moment: "When I looked at the Earth itself. I want people to come to Oshkosh and enjoy this'".

Astronaut-artist Nicole Stott said the golden anniversary provides an opportunity to reintroduce the world to Earthrise.

Borman, Lovell and Anders were quick studies.

"The only color that we could see and contrasted by this really unfriendly, stark lunar horizon, made me think, 'You know, we really live on a handsome little planet, ' " he said.

LEWIS: It wasn't just the crew of Apollo 8 that reflected during the flight.

Anders is also critical of the decision to focus on near-Earth orbit exploration after the completion of the Apollo programme in the 1970s.

BORMAN: And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a merry Christmas - and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.

Lovell went on to command the ill-fated Apollo 13 - "but that's another story".

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