This is where we live. In space. On a marble fortified against bottomless blackness by a shell of air and color, fragile and miraculous as a soap bubble.
In 1968, we Earthlings knew that already, sort of. But that abstract notion became visceral on Christmas Eve of that year. While scouting landing spots on the moon, the astronauts of Apollo 8 — Frank Borman, William A. Anders and James A. Lovell, Jr. — spied the shiny blue Earth rising over the ash-colored lunar mountains like a cosmic smiley face. That image, transmitted from space, went on to capture the imagination of the world: Earthrise.
Major Anders had the job of photographing the lunar landscape. When Earth rose, a robot would have kept on clicking off pictures of the craters. Indeed the astronauts briefly joked about whether they should break off and aim their cameras up. “Hey don’t take that, it’s not scheduled,” Commander Borman said. Then, like good humans, they grabbed cameras and clicked away.
On Christmas Eve, 1968, astronauts orbiting the moon saw Earth rising for the first time.
“Earthrise” did not start environmentalism, but it became the movement’s icon, a gift of perspective at the end of a long, dark year.