A Moon shot seen round the world

Fifty years ago I had just returned home from my first quarter in college. The news of the world was even more depressing than today. Our air was being poisoned with smog. So thick that sometimes it was hard to make out the guard rail on the opposite side of the Bayshore freeway in San Francisco. Just a few months before, the assassination of Robert Kennedy in a kitchen hallway at the Ambassador Hotel seemed to confirm that violence against progressive leaders would be lasting feature of our political landscape. I'd used that same hallway the year before, working setting up for the junior prom. I can't leave those memories behind, now fused with images of the assassination. The summer of my high school graduation, rebellion in Detroit and its military occupation showed how limited my experience of the world was. The violence we brought to others, could easily be our future in America.

In 1967, the Apollo 1 fire, and the Apollo 6 engine failure had underscored how difficult leaving the earth would be. There was real doubt as to whether a moon landing would be achieved. I was distracted by my new experiences in college and horrified by the news of our country and the world.

The sudden announcement of a flight around the Moon in late 1968 seemed to be an invitation for another disaster. The picture perfect Apollo 8 mission, launched 50 years ago on December 21, 1961, reminds us that difficult odds can be overcome by skilled, determined people. That feeling of hope and triumph is summarized in this image, taken as the Apollo 8 spacecraft rounded the far side of the moon, by NASA's Bill Anders on December 24, 1968.

This enduring view shows us the power of a single image to give us a new point of view and new ways of thinking. With the ascendency of 21st century luddites intent on destroying the scientific and economic tools that have some hope of keeping the planet habitable for 8 billion people, the future once again looks very dark. We can ignore the deniers, luddites, and fanatics. Focus on making the human journey meaningful, long, prosperous, and joyful.

For more about the Apollo 8 mission, see the Washington Post, Apollo 8: NASA’s first moonshot was a bold and terrifying improvisation.

NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio has just released a stunning 4k high definition recreation of the making of this image. This short video shows off the power of scientific visualization, perfect for a 4K TV. Learn when to use 250 at f/11 and where to find crater Anders' Eathrise and 8 Homeward in this 6 minute video.

Content created: 2018-12-20

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