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It Was 40 Years Ago Today: The First Earthrise

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Forty years ago on Christmas Eve, men saw something that had never before been seen: an Earthrise.

Apollo 8 was circling the moon, carrying the first men who had ever left earth's orbit and traveled to another celestial body.

As they circled the moon, frantically taking every picture they could, astronaut Frank Borman asked Mission Control in Houston if Rod Rose was ready for "experiment P-1."

Rose was, like Borman, a member of St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Seabrook; the two had cooked up a plan for Borman to record a Bible reading for the Christmas Eve service there.

Soon after that was finished, the three astronauts -- Borman, Jim Anders and Bill Lovell -- were astonished as they saw the earth, sparkling blue and white against the blackness of space, rise above the moon's horizon.


They started diving for cameras, like parents when the new baby does something cute.

From the official NASA transcripts:

075:47:30 Anders or Borman: Oh, my God! Look at that picture over there! Here's the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!

075:47:37 Borman or Anders): Hey, don't take that, it's not scheduled.

075:47:39 Borman: [Laughter] You got a color film, Jim?

075:47:46 Anders: Hand me that roll of color quick, will you...

075:47:48 Lovell: Oh man, that's great!

075:47:50 Anders: ...Hurry. Quick.

075:47:54 Borman: Gee.

075:47:55 Lovell: It's down here?

075:47:56 Anders: Just grab me a color. That color exterior.

075:48:00 Lovell: [Garbled.]

075:48:01 Anders: Hurry up!

075:48:06 Borman: Got one?

075:48:08 Anders: Yeah, I'm looking for one.

075:48:10 Lovell: C 368.

075:48:11 Anders: Anything, quick.

075:48:13 Lovell: Here.

075:48:17 Anders: Well, I think we missed it.

075:48:31 Lovell: Hey, I got it right here!

075:48:33 Anders: Let - let me get it out this window. It's a lot clearer.

075:48:37 Lovell: Bill, I got it framed; it's very clear right here. You got it?

075:48:4: Yep.

075:48:42 Borman: Well, take several of them.

075:48:43 Lovell: Take several of them! Here, give it to me.

075:48:44 Anders: Wait a minute, let's get the right setting, here now; just calm down.

075:48:47 Borman: Calm down, Lovell.

075:48:49 Lovell: Well, I got it ri - Oh, that's a beautiful shot.

075:48:54 Lovell: 250 at f/11.

075:49:07 Anders: Okay.

075:49:08 Lovell: Now vary the - vary the exposure a little bit.

075:49:09 Anders: I did. I took two of them.

075:49:11 Lovell: You sure we got it now?

075:49:12 Anders: Yes, we'll get - we'll - It'll come up again, I think.

075:49:17 Lovell: Just take another one, Bill.

Both Anders and Borman claimed to have taken the iconic color shot that ended up on the cover of Life magazine; no one's really sure who's right, although the consensus leans toward Anders.

Later in the flight, of course, the trio famously read from the Book of Genesis in a televised segment aired live back on the blue, lonely earth.

-- Richard Connelly

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