50 Years Ago, Apollo Crew Gave Humanity a Christmas Gift: Our First Gaze at ‘the Blue Marble’ Still Inspiring us Today
The astronauts of the Apollo 17 mission left a Christmas gift under the tree for all of humanity as they traveled on their way to the Moon.
“The Blue Marble” is still one of the most inspiring images of our Earth ever taken, and it was 50 years ago on Christmas Eve that they did so.
Using Hasselblad photography equipment, Ronald Evans, Eugene Cernan, and Harrison Schmitt captured the blue Indian and Atlantic oceans flanking a giant Africa over-swirled by puffy clouds—all of which was framed by the backdrop of black oblivion.
The powerful image as CNN astutely points out, wasn’t an overnight sensation like the recent JWST photos. Instead it grew slowly to be the banner image of the first environmental movement, and the Earth Day holiday which started just 2 years before.
“It gives you a much different sense of the world in which we live, that geographical and political boundaries are really meaningless when you get into space,” NASA historian Steve Garber told CNN. “And I think that’s part of what was so special about the ‘Blue Marble’ photo.”
Cernan said the same after he got home, describing it as a self-portrait of humanity.
The Blue Marble generated the phrase “overview effect” which describes how astronauts, and now more recently space tourists, begin to see the fragile nature of the Earth set against the backdrop of empty space, and the foolishness of fighting over national borders—there’s always a comment on borders.
As almost every globe and map we look at contains politically-motivated boundaries enforced by violence, seeing the world instead au naturale has the effect of dispelling an illusion.
All NASA astronauts are trained photographers for just such occasions as capturing something that communicates the majesty and experience of spaceflight—something like The Blue Marble.
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