The photo that turned us green

December 24, 1968: Catherine Hampton on an amazing image of our beautiful blue planet

The World Today Updated 9 November 2020 Published 7 December 2018 2 minute READ

Catherine Hampton

Former Programme Coordinator, Energy, Environment and Resources Department, Chatham House

When the Apollo 8 mission took off from the Kennedy Space Centre on December 21, 1968, it was the first manned mission to the Moon, and carried a three-man crew made up of Colonel Frank Borman, Captain James Lovell and Major William Anders.

During the first two and a half orbits of the Moon, the crew were tilted so they could only see the lunar surface. As they began their third orbit on Christmas Eve, they flipped the right way up and faced forwards just as the Earth serendipitously came up over the Moon’s horizon. Bill Anders spontaneously took the photograph that would later become known as ‘Earthrise’ and was named by Nature photographer Galen Rowell as ‘the most influential environmental photograph ever taken’.

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