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, 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.
An external view of the spacecraft as the Earth rises in the distance. The first frame corresponds to 10:37:19 a.m. Central Standard (Houston) Time, 16:37:19.0 Universal Time, and 75:46:19.0 Mission Elapsed Time. The frames cover an elapsed time of exactly three minutes. This frame set and several of the others are synchronized in time.
An idealized view of Earth rising above the lunar terrain, using a focal length similar to the telephoto lens used for the Earthrise photographs. For the 1920 × 1080 frame set, the first frame corresponds to 75:47:06 MET, which is 47 seconds (1410 frames) later than the other synchronized frame sets. The 3840 × 2160 frame set covers the full three-minute interval starting at 75:46:19 MET.
The three Earthrise photographs, scaled and rotated to match the telephoto view of the preceeding frame set. They correspond to frames 1092, 2814, and 3545 of the 1920 × 1080 frames, and to frames 2502, 4224, and 4955 of the 3840 × 2160 frames. The original photographs are AS08-13-2329, AS08-14-2383, and AS08-14-2384.
A nadir view of the lunar surface, overlaid with Apollo 8 vertical stereo photographs. This frame set is synchronous with others that begin at 75:46:19 MET. It shows photos AS08-12-2135 through AS08-12-2144 on magazine D.
The wide-angle view of the Moon and Earth through the right side window (window 5). These frames are synchronous with others that begin at 75:46:19 MET. The 1920 × 1080 frame set is partial, covering frames 2000 through 3800. The 3840 × 2160 frame set is complete.
The wide-angle view of the Moon and Earth through the right rendezvous window (window 4). These frames are synchronous with others that begin at 75:46:19 MET. The 1920 × 1080 frame set is partial, covering frames 3600 to 5400. The 3840 × 2160 frame set is complete.
A nose-on view of the spacecraft as it begins to roll. This highlights the positions of the windows relative to the roll direction. The frames are synchronous with other frame sets that begin at 75:46:19 MET, but the coverage is partial, from frame 540 to 900.
A telescopic view of the Moon from Earth as the spacecraft emerges from the far side. The position of the CSM is represented by a white dot, but the spacecraft could not be seen in even the most powerful telescopes.