Our Oasis

Fifty years ago, the crew of Apollo 8 became the first humans to leave Earth and journey to its closest celestial body, the Moon.  Launching on the morning of December 21, 1968, they were the first to enter space from atop the powerful and complex Saturn V rocket.  Their eyes would be the first to see the Earth as an entire sphere and to orbit the Moon and observe its obscure far side.  For many back home, they changed not only the way we understand the Moon, but how we perceive the uniqueness and fragility of Earth.

On December 23, 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 transmitted this black-and-white television image of Earth to an awe-struck global audience back home. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders were the first of only 24 persons to date who have observed, with their own eyes, the entire disk of the planet, seen here from 176,533 miles during their outbound journey to orbit the Moon. (NASA Image)
Striking color photographs were processed and distributed following the return of Apollo 8’s crew from their successful Christmas Eve orbits of the Moon. Exposed while outbound on December 22, 1968, this spectacular image includes the Americas, the Atlantic Ocean, and western Africa. Taken within a day of the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice, the photograph clearly shows the shadow of darkness draped across the Arctic region. (Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center, NASA Image) 
Photographed by astronaut Bill Anders, the well-known “Earthrise” image reveals our blue world as seen from the Apollo 8 Command Module which at the time was emerging from the opposite side of the moon during one of its Christmas Eve lunar orbits. (NASA Image by Bill Anders)

Said Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell during a televised broadcast from lunar orbit on Christmas Eve half a century ago, “The vast loneliness up here of the Moon is awe-inspiring, and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.  The Earth from here is a grand oasis in the big vastness of space.”