The astronauts had spun around the moon a few times already, their gaze pointed down on the gray, pockmarked lunar surface. But now as they completed another orbit of the moon on Christmas Eve 1968, Frank Borman, the commander of the Apollo 8 mission, rolled the spacecraft, and, soon, there it was.
Earth, this bright, beautiful sphere, alone in the inky vastness of space, a soloist at the edge of the stage suspended in the spotlight.
“Oh, my God,” exclaimed Bill Anders, the lunar module pilot. “Look at that picture over there! There’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!”
Anders knew black and white film wouldn’t do it justice. But he also knew he didn’t have a lot of time if he was going to get the shot.
“Hand me a roll of color quick, will you,” he said.
“Oh, man, that’s great,” said Jim Lovell, the command module pilot and navigator.
“Hurry,” Anders pleaded. “Quick!”
Anders loaded the color film into his Hasselblad camera and started firing away while his anxious crewmates remained transfixed by the blue and white vision outside their windows…
Two days later, the film was processed, and NASA released photo number 68-H-1401 to the public with a news release that said: “This view of the rising earth greeted the Apollo 8 astronauts as they came from behind the moon after the lunar orbit insertion burn.”…
“As I looked down at the Earth, which is about the size of your fist at arm’s length, I’m thinking this is not a very big place. Why can’t we get along?” Anders said during a video played during a ceremony at Washington National Cathedral recently celebrating the 50th anniversary of the mission. “To me it was strange that we had worked and had come all the way to the moon to study the moon, and what we really discovered was the Earth.”