Forty-five years after it was taken, the Earthrise remains one of the most impressive and iconic photographs of the planet Earth taken from space. Find out more about this influential photographs after the jump!
On December 21, 1968, the Apollo 8 mission sent a three-astronaut crew — Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders — to carry out the first manned voyage to orbit the Moon. By completing their mission, the three astronauts became the first humans to venture beyond the Low Earth Orbit (160 – 2,000 kilometers above Earth), the first to see the Earth as a whole planet, and the first to see the far side of the Moon directly. Additionally, they became the first humans to photograph the Earth rising over the Moon, with William Anders being the spaceman behind the camera when the iconic “Earthrise” was taken on December 24, 1968.
What kind of films and camera did the crew bring along with them? Here’s what the Apollo 8 Press Kit says:
“A large quantity of film of various types has been loaded aboard the Apollo 8 spacecraft for lunar surface photography and for items of interest that crop up in the course of the mission.
“Camera equipment carried on Apollo 8 consists of two 70mm Hasselblad still cameras with two 80mm focal length lenses, a 250mm telephoto lens, and associated equipment such as filters, ringsight, spotmeter, and intervalometer for stereo strip photography. For motion pictures, a 16mm Maurer camera with variable frame rates will be used.
“Apollo 8 film stowage is as follows: 3 magazines of Panatomic-X intermediate speed black and white for total 600 frames; 2 magazines SO-368 (ASA 64) Ektachrome color reversal for total 352 frames; 1 magazine SO-121 Ektachrome special daylight color reversal for total 160 frames; and 1 magazine 2485 high-speed black and white (ASA 6,000, push to 16,000) for dim-light photography, total 120 frames. Motion picture film: 9 130-foot magazines SO-368 for total 1170 feet, and 2 magazines SO-168 high speed interior color for total 260 feet.”
A recorded conversation between Frank Borman and William Anders tells us that the former first took a black and white photograph using a highly modified Hasselblad 500 EL, before the latter was able to find a suitable 70mm color film and shoot the iconic “Earthrise” that we all know from history. The Apollo Flight Journal has provided a transcription of the conversation, along with some notes and details, in the Day 4: Lunar Orbits 4, 5 and 6 page.
As a bonus, you can watch a NASA simulation of that historic moment below:
Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.