Thousands of pictures of Earth have been taken from space, but few have had as much impact as the picture taken by Apollo 8's crew exactly 42 years ago. The "Earthrise" photograph, showing our planet hanging in a black sky, was taken as the mission's three astronauts swung around the moon on Christmas Eve 1968. It's considered the first color photo of the full Earth made from deep space. The late photographer Galen Rowell called it "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken."
The view from the moon fosters the realization that this one planet is our one home — a home that must be protected and treasured. In fact, such views are said to spark a phenomenon called "the overview effect," a feeling of spiritual transcendence and universal connection that's often experienced by astronauts during spaceflight.
During the Apollo 8 astronauts' Christmas Eve broadcast, the astronauts took turns reading from the Book of Genesis — and commander Frank Borman ended with this wish: "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."
Such are our wishes for you on this Christmas Eve.
One more picture of Earth from space remains to be revealed in our Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar — a final treat for Christmas Day. Click on the links below to see the previous pictures in this series, as well as images from other space-themed Advent calendars:
- The Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar so far
- Door 1 for Dec. 1: Shuttle in spotlight
- Door 2 for Dec. 2: 'Alien' lake seen from space
- Door 3 for Dec. 3: Egypt's river of light
- Door 4 for Dec. 4: Tallest building reaches for the sky
- Door 5 for Dec. 5: Russia's dazzling delta
- Door 6 for Dec. 6: Space skipper vs. the world
- Door 7 for Dec. 7: Pearl Harbor from the heavens
- Door 8 for Dec. 8: Listening for E.T.
- Door 9 for Dec. 9: Blast from the past
- Door 10 for Dec. 10: Volcano caught in the act
- Door 11 for Dec. 11: Chronicling climate change
- Door 12 for Dec. 12: Happy St. Lucy's Day
- Door 13 for Dec. 13: Viva Las Vegas
- Door 14 for Dec. 14: Don't wake the volcanoes
- Door 15 for Dec. 15: Stairways to heaven
- Door 16 for Dec. 16: White Christmas in the Midwest
- Door 17 for Dec. 17: Tracks in the sky
- Door 18 for Dec. 18: Amelia Earhart's final resting place?
- Door 19 for Dec. 19: Lunar eclipse as seen from space
- Door 20 for Dec. 20: Our pale blue dot
- Door 21 for Dec. 21: Celebrate the longest night
- Door 22 for Dec. 22: Wild West Africa
- Door 23 for Dec. 23: Holy Land from on high
- The Big Picture at Boston.com: Hubble Advent calendar
- Planetary Society: Solar system Advent calendar
- Zooniverse Advent calendar
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