Fifty years ago, an image taken from Apollo 8 kick-started the environmental movement. Gaia Vince tells the story of the Earthrise photo.
On Christmas Eve in 1968 Bill Anders was in orbit around the moon in Apollo 8 when he took one of the most iconic photos of the last fifty years: Earthrise. The image got to be seen everywhere, from a stamp issued in 1969 to commemorate the success of Apollo 8, to posters that are still available today. Gaia Vince explores the impact of this image on the environmental movement and our understanding of our place in the universe.
“Oh my God. Look at that picture over there. Here’s the earth coming up. Wow, isn’t that pretty.”
Bill Anders was on the fourth of the ten orbits of the moon on Apollo 8, along with James Lovell and Frank Borman. Bill had spotted the earth through one of the hatch windows and grabbed his camera to take a black and white photo. But just in time, he picked up another camera with a colour film loaded, and the rest is history. When they returned from space – the first mission to orbit the moon – Nasa used Bill Anders’ image of Earthrise in its publicity. Nasa had understood there was an added value of going into space: taking pictures of our home planet.
Stewart Brand was part of both the counterculture and the environmental movement; he’d hung out with Ken Kesey and his merry pranksters and put on happenings. He went on to found the Whole Earth Catalog, which brought together all kinds of alternative thinkers. Stewart Brand put the Earthrise photo on the front cover of one of the editions of the Whole Earth Catalog.
Gaia Vince talks to Stewart Brand, and to scientists and artists, about the continuing importance of seeing Earth from above.
Picture: Earthrise - The rising Earth is about five degrees above the lunar horizon in this telephoto view taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft on December 24th 1968, Credit: Nasa
Presenter: Gaia Vince
Producer: Deborah Cohen