Earthrise, the photograph of the century, turns 50

Earthrise is an iconic photograph which has hugely influenced the world’s visual perception of planet earth. The photograph was taken by astronaut Bill Anders from Apollo 8 spacecraft and it shows the exquisite imagery of earth rising over the moon. This photo turns 50 this year, what does this picture trying to tell us today?

Picturesque Earthrise shot 50 years ago. Picture Courtesy: Forbes

On December 24, 1968, astronaut Bill Anders, one of the three men in the Apollo 8 mission, as part of United States expedition to moon, unexpectedly faced the opportunity to shoot the ‘Earthrise’ from the lunar horizon. The photograph as mentioned by NASA is a group effort, and was possible due to team work of the three astronauts, other two being Frank Borman and James Lovell. They had no idea that this image will completely change the way the world will perceive the ‘world’ from that point in time. It became a symbol of man’s first sight of the ‘world’. Honoured as ‘the most influential environmental photograph ever taken’ by lensman Galen Rowell, the ‘Earthrise’ picture, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It was the first human-crewed mission to orbit the moon. However, the first black and white Earthrise picture was apparently sent by Lunar Orbiter 1 during an unmanned moon-orbiting mission. Know more about how the photograph was shot in this video from NASA.

Although NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera – EPIC (unmanned drone) sends tons of Earth images daily from a distance, which is four times farther than Apollo 8, this spectacular and picturesque image has become an integral part of our history. This image is captured on a Hasselblad camera and the story goes that the first photo shot by Anders was a black & white image, he quickly asked Lovell to share colour film to him, and it was sheer luck that Anders could record the amazing colour image, which the world saw.

This image captured the imagination of the world, and it is believed to have triggered the modern environmental dialogue across the world. It also led to the humanisation of ‘planet’ and a certain profoundness that all earthlings are eventually bound by a common destiny. However, amid the fast-pacing climate change, environmental degradation, pollution and warring communities the question is – what will the Earthrise picture for this generation be? The way humans have degenerated the planet, is Earthrise now a historical archive, or a reminder of human race’s shared fate? As per some statistics, population of vertebrates, since last 50 years have gone down by nearly 60%. It is imperative for the human race to be sensitive to the fragility of ‘earth’ and treat it likewise.

As we commemorate the beauty of planet earth with ‘Earthrise’, we leave you with these profound words by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, “The one thing all humans share is that we all inhabit the same limited amount of real estate, which is Planet Earth.”


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