Friday, 18 January, 2019

50 years ago, 'Earthrise' inspired the environmental movement

Earthrise Apollo 8’s astronauts were the first to witness Earthrise from lunar orbit on Christmas Eve in 1968
Theresa Hayes | 24 December, 2018, 22:39

It still elicits goosebumps: Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, William Anders and James Lovell reading from the Book of Genesis while orbiting the moon on December 24, 1968 - Christmas Eve back home. Bill Anders, 85, said that he is a big supporter of the unmanned missions to the planet, but told BBC Radio Live 5 that there is no public support for an expensive manned mission.

On Christmas Eve, we watched as Frank Borman, James Lovell and James Anders broadcast from space, giving us our first glimpse of what earth looked like from afar. For Borman, however, the more spacious confines of the Apollo capsule (compared to the cramped Gemini) led to a bout of space sickness. The decision was thus made that Borman, Lovell and Anders crew, the crew of Apollo 8, would fly anyway with what they had - the Apollo orbiter alone - and take it to the place it was created to go in the first place: the moon.

But CIA imagery suggested that the Soviets were preparing to send cosmonauts on a flight around the moon in late 1968 or early 1969.

Could the Saturn V and the Apollo spaceship be ready in time? But Saturn V was new and had never flown a manned crew. It was until actually just prior to our lunar orbit ... we had to slow down to get captured by lunar gravity when we actually first saw the shadows of a lunar sunrise and that was pretty impressive. "Apollo's Daring Mission" shines a well-deserved spotlight on MIT software engineer Margaret Hamilton, whose leadership of the programming effort earned her a Presidential Medal of Freedom (and her own Lego minifigure). "Inside Mission Control, no one moved".

This view of the earth, was taken from Apollo 8 in December, 1968.

"I just wish I really had that moment to live over again", Collins says, "because I would have said to them, 'Apollo 8, you can now slip the surly bonds of Earth and dance the sky, Apollo 8".

By August, delays in the lunar module development meant that the mission would not have the very spacecraft it was intended to test. In the middle of their survey, Anders looked up from his camera and became the first human to marvel at the sight of Earth rising over the moon's horizon. Look at that picture over there. Anders said. "There's the Earth coming up". An investigation of transcripts later revealed that Borman, who was the first to recognise the importance of the moment, took a black-and-white photo before Anders snapped the iconic colour photograph.

A second photo was taken from behind the astronauts looking onto the USS Arlington, which was also lined with sailors dressed in white on the flight deck.

Many have pointed out the irony of the photo, since Apollo 8 was sent to study and take pictures of the Moon's surface - not Earth. Add to it the fact that the crew of Apollo 1 had been burned to death during a ground test in 1967 owing to a launchpad fire, and it seemed that all the ingredients and a recipe for disaster were in place.

LEWIS: The U.S. and the Soviet Union had spent the 1960s locked in the space race, and getting to the moon first was a thrilling achievement.

KING: It was the first time that human beings had ventured to and orbited the moon.

When the movie "Apollo 13" was released more than 20 years ago, I stood in line for an hour for tickets. "This was the first digital computer in nearly anything". There's no way commercial space ventures such as SpaceX and Blue Origin could do what they're doing without advanced software tools, plus the frontier-pushing mindset that has guided the careers of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and so many others.