This April 22nd marks the 48th anniversary of Earth Day. But why should we celebrate the earth only on Earth Day? Let’s celebrate Earth Day for the entire month of April. We can call it Planet Earth Month and then it’s not too big a leap to celebrate our precious planet and all that it provides, everyday.
A Glowing Globe in a Sea of Black Space
Whenever I think of Earth Day I think of the spellbinding image called “Earthrise” that revealed our beautiful blue planet, 230,000 miles away, appearing above the surface of the moon and showing it as it had never been seen before. The earth, a living, glowing orb with swirling clouds and blue oceans appeared in stark contrast to the dry, dead, rocky moonscape in the foreground. The contrast could not have been more telling and some say, it was the 20th century’s most iconic image.
A Christmas Present to the World
The photo was taken on Christmas Eve in 1968, by astronaut William Anders aboard Apollo 8, during the historic, first orbital flight to the moon. On their fourth orbit the crew made a correction that maneuvered the ship so that they could look ahead, but not preparing them for what they would see next. As they emerged into sunlight, from the darkness of the lunar shadow, the earth appeared as a bright blue jewel, aglow in the blackest void of space. (photo – NASA)
“Discovering the Earth for the First Time”
“That was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” said Anders in an interview with Andrew Chaikin given in 1987. “Totally unanticipated. Because we were being trained to go to the Moon… It wasn’t ‘going to the Moon and looking back at the Earth.’ I never even thought about that!” Seeing the Earthrise, Anders said, changed his entire perspective on the mission.
“In lunar orbit, it occurred to me that, here we are, all the way up there at the Moon, and we’re studying this thing, and it’s really the Earth as seen from the Moon that’s the most interesting aspect of this flight.”
A Transcendent Moment
From Snapchat to TV to our computer screens we are incessantly bombarded with visuals, so today, it is difficult for us to imagine the immediate, global impact of this one image from 1968.
It appeared on the cover of countless newspapers and magazines around the world. It adorned a U.S. postage stamp, the cover of the Whole Earth Catalog and served as the backdrop for Walter Cronkite’s “CBS Evening News.” And it offered a precious moment of transcendence after 1968’s violence and turmoil. (photo – NASA)
Icon of the Environmental Movement
Many credit Earthrise with inspiring the environmental movement, including respected wilderness photographer Galen Rowell who called it, “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.” Not surprisingly, sixteen months after Anders snapped Earthrise, we celebrated the first Earth Day.
With the taking of Earthrise we could no longer remain “earth-centric,” it forced us to be aware that “spaceship earth” was a beautiful, possibly unique and fragile planet within an infinite cosmos.
This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8 and a flight that captured Moonrise and the imagination of the world. An image that is at the heart of why, today, we celebrate the Earth.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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