Fifty years ago come December 24 (Christmas Eve), 1968, the Apollo 8 mission changed how we see the earth and ourselves forever.

Apollo 8 launched on December 21, 1968 and took nearly three days (68 hours) to travel the distance to the moon. The three astronauts aboard were Frank Borman, James Lovell Jr., and Bill Anders. The latter was the mission photographer.

Changed how we see the earth forever 

Bill Anders captured an image of the earth on December 24, Christmas Eve that changed how we see the earth forever. The image has been entitled “Earthrise” because it showed the earth rising over the moon’s horizon. 

The photo showed a living blue planet rising over a dead lunar horizon. The earth, however, reduced to an ornament-sized sphere. It looked fragile and isolated just hanging half in shadow and suspended in the middle of black nothingness.

Changed how we see ourselves forever 

Not only were we shown a small, blue, finite earth half buried in shadow but a globe filled with water that 3.5 billion people depended on for life and billions and billions of other creatures including animals, mammals, and all kinds of planet life. 

From that distance, we could not separate ourselves by race, ethnicity, or gender. We were part of a whole planet suspended in space together. Instead of seeing ourselves as black, brown, red, white, or yellow, we could see ourselves as a predominately blue planet.               

An unprecedented broadcast 

The three astronauts held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, the most televised broadcast ever at the time, during which they showed their photos of the earth and moon that captivated more than an estimated one billion people.   

They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the Book of Genesis. “The first ten verses of Genesis is the foundation of many of the world’s religions, not just the Christian religion,” added astronaut Lovell years later. “There are more people in other religions than the Christian religion around the world, and so this would be appropriate to that and so that’s how it came to pass.” 

Astronaut Bowman ended the broadcast by saying, 

“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

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