Midnight repost: The real meaning of the Apollo 8 Earthrise image


Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

Tonight’s midnight repost essay, written to celebrate the 50th anniversary in December 2018 of the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon, I think is a fitting finale to my month-long retrospective of past essays from Behind the Black. Unlike many others, which document the culture decline of our once great country, this essay looks hopefully to the grand future of the human race, once we have escaped this prison of Earth and begin to explore and settle the wider universe.

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The real meaning of the Apollo 8 Earthrise image

Earthrise, as seen by a space-farer

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the moment when the three astronauts on Apollo 8 witnessed their first Earthrise while in orbit around the Moon, and Bill Anders snapped the picture of that Earthrise that has been been called “the most influential environmental picture ever taken.”

The last few days have seen numerous articles celebrating this iconic image. While all have captured in varying degrees the significance and influence of that picture on human society on Earth, all have failed to depict this image as Bill Anders, the photographer, took it. He did not frame the shot, in his mind, with the horizon on the bottom of the frame, as it has been depicted repeatedly in practically every article about this image, since the day it was published back in 1968.

Instead, Anders saw himself as an spaceman in a capsule orbiting the waist of the Moon. He also saw the Earth as merely another space object, now appearing from behind the waist of that Moon. As a result, he framed the shot with the horizon to the right, with the Earth moving from right to left as it moved out from behind the Moon, as shown on the right.

His perspective was that of a spacefarer, an explorer of the universe that sees the planets around him as objects within that universe in which he floats.

When we here are on Earth frame the image with the horizon on the bottom, we immediately reveal our limited planet-bound perspective. We automatically see ourselves on a planet’s surface, watching another planet rise above the distant horizon line.

This difference in perspective is to me the real meaning of this picture. On one hand we see the perspective of the past. On the other we see the perspective the future, for as long a humanity can remain alive.

I prefer the future perspective, which is why I framed this image on the cover of Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8 the way Bill Anders took it. I prefer to align myself with that space-faring future.

And it was that space-faring future that spoke when they read from Genesis that evening. They had made the first human leap to another world, and they wished to describe and capture the majesty of that leap to the world. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Yet, they were also still mostly Earth-bound in mind, which is why Frank Borman’s concluding words during that Christmas eve telecast were so heartfelt. He was a spaceman in a delicate vehicle talking to his home of Earth, 240,000 miles away. “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.” They longed deeply to return, a wish that at that moment, in that vehicle, was quite reasonable.

Someday that desire to return to Earth will be gone. People will live and work and grow up in space, and see the Earth as Bill Anders saw it in his photograph fifty years ago.

And it is for that time that I long. It will be a future of majesty we can only imagine.

Merry Christmas to all, all of us still pinned down here on “the good Earth.”

Readers!
 

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2 comments

  • Cotour

    From: Something, Not Nothing: JGL, 7/19

    “If I had to choose one illustrative symbol to demonstrate my point about how humans intellectualize a second reality I think the best symbol of this condition might be the famous picture of earth rise taken from the moon. I could list the myriad functions of human intellect and accomplishment like complex science, technologies and complex industrial processes that most are not even aware of.

    And abstract mathematics, architecture and the many multiple petabytes of literature, music and video that humans have created and immerse themselves in that clearly distinguishes “Us” (Humans) from “Them” (All other animals) throughout the history of life on earth. And I think that one picture best illustrates my point.”

    ” A human can view that picture and immerse themselves in and understand everything that went into accomplishing physically leaving the earth. From the initial dream while star gazing on a mountain top a thousand years ago. To the concept of the sun orbited by the planets. To the concept of gravity on earth and in the fabric and void of space. To the concept of a concept. To the mathematics, technologies and materials that must be developed and mastered in order to make the accomplishment a reality.

    But a deer, nor any other animals brain structure on the planet can never and will never appreciate the consequences of that picture. KoKo the gorilla may be able to appreciate a picture of a kitten or a butterfly, but could never ever appreciate the paradigm shifting intellectualized reality consequences of the earth rise picture”.

  • Alex Andrite

    Perfect !
    Very Perfect.

    And here we are.
    Koko

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