Planets and Moons 

Earthrise: The 45th Anniversary

In December of 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 became the first people to leave our home planet and travel to another body in space. But as crew members Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders all later recalled, the most important thing they discovered was Earth.

Using photo mosaics and elevation data from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), this video commemorates the 45th anniversary of Apollo 8's historic flight by recreating the moment when the crew first saw and photographed the Earth rising from behind the Moon. Narrator Andrew Chaikin, author of A Man on the Moon, sets the scene for a three-minute visualization of the view from both inside and outside the spacecraft accompanied by the onboard audio of the astronauts.

The visualization draws on numerous historical sources, including the actual cloud pattern on Earth from the ESSA-7 satellite and dozens of photographs taken by Apollo 8, and it reveals new, historically significant information about the Earthrise photographs. It has not been widely known, for example, that the spacecraft was rolling when the photos were taken, and that it was this roll that brought the Earth into view. The visualization establishes the precise timing of the roll and, for the first time ever, identifies which window each photograph was taken from.

The key to the new work is a set of vertical stereo photographs taken by a camera mounted in the Command Module's rendezvous window and pointing straight down onto the lunar surface. It automatically photographed the surface every 20 seconds. By registering each photograph to a model of the terrain based on LRO data, the orientation of the spacecraft can be precisely determined.

A Google Hangout discussion of this visualization between Ernie Wright (creator of the visualization), Andrew Chaikin (narrator and script writer for the visualization and author of A Man on the Moon), John Keller (LRO project scientist), and Aries Keck (NASA media specialist) was held on December 20, 2013. A replay of that hangout is available here.

This NASA Wavelength blog entry about Earthrise includes links to educator resources related to LRO.

Related Media

For More Information

Visualization Credits

Ernie Wright (USRA): Lead Animator
Dan Gallagher (USRA): Video Editor
Andrew Chaikin: Narration
Andrew Chaikin: Narrator
Dan Gallagher (USRA): Producer
Ernie Wright (USRA): Producer
Andrew Chaikin: Producer
Noah Petro (NASA/GSFC): Producer
John Keller (NASA/GSFC): Scientist
Noah Petro (NASA/GSFC): Scientist
Richard Vondrak (NASA/GSFC): Scientist
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Andrew Chaikin appears courtesy of the Lunar and Planetary Institute. Spacecraft model by Stuart Howes.

Short URL to share this page:

LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)

Data Used:
Apollo 8 Trajectory Reconstruction
LRO/LOLA/Digital Elevation Map
LRO/LROC/WAC 643nm High Sun Global Mosaic
Terra/MODIS/Blue Marble

This item is part of these series:
Narrated Movies
The Moon
LRO - Animations

Goddard TV Tape:
G2013-102 -- Earthrise 45th Anniversary

SVS >> Elevation data
SVS >> Flyover
SVS >> Laser Altimeter
SVS >> Lunar
SVS >> Moon
SVS >> Hyperwall
SVS >> Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
DLESE >> Narrated
SVS >> Lunar Topography
SVS >> Lunar Elevation Map
SVS >> Solar System >> Moon >> Lunar Surface
NASA Science >> Planets and Moons
SVS >> Apollo 8
SVS >> Earthrise