E
is for
Earth

“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant, I felt very, very small.”

— Neil Armstrong, as cited in The People’s Almanac by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, 1975.

There are pictures that change our relationship with the world for ever. Earthrise, taken by American astronaut Bill Anders, is one of them. On Christmas Eve 1968, the Apollo 8 spacecraft was rounding the dark side of the moon for a fourth time when Earth came up over the horizon, floating alone in the eternal night of space. Against the desolate, grey landscape of the moon, our planet was blue and white. One can only imagine what the astronauts, 240,000 miles away from home, must have felt when witnessing such a miraculous apparition.

Fifty years have passed since this picture was first published. Today it feels almost ironic to realise that, when the Apollo 8 crew went to space in reconnaissance for the epic 1969 moon landing, what they brought back to the world was Earth. Iconic images like this one have the power to make us see the unseen and re-encounter what we take for granted. Catching sight of our place in space, Earthrise made the whole world realise that our blue planet, this tiny and vulnerable piece of life in the vastness of space, is the only home we have.

— Louise Chignac

Earth from Apollo 8 as it rounded the dark side of the moon. Photo: Nasa/AFP/Getty Images.