Fifty Years After Taking “Earthrise” Photo, Apollo 8 Astronaut Has Christmas Message

Bill Anders snapped iconic photo on Dec. 24, 1968, and has new season's greeting at

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Apollo 8 view of earthrise over the moon. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Fifty years ago this Christmas Eve, the Apollo 8 crew orbited the moon in a first for humanity. And on Dec. 24, 1968, lunar module pilot Bill Anders snapped the now-iconic Earthrise photo that put the troubles on the surface of our planet in perspective.

That perspective couldn’t have come at a time when it was more needed for Americans. It was taken shortly after the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy; amid the turbulence of the Vietnam War and the escalating Cold War with Russia.

Fifty years later, Anders wrote a moving insider’s account on of that fateful mission — one which he calculated at the time to have only a 1-in-3 chance of returning to Earth.

“The Earth we saw rising over the battered grey lunar surface was small and delicate, a magnificent spot of color in the vast blackness of space. Once-distant places appeared inseparably close,” writes Anders. “Borders that once rendered division vanished. All of humanity appeared joined together on this glorious-but-fragile sphere.”

Anders hopes that the 1968 Christmas Eve message still resonates as we hit the fiftieth revolution around the sun since.

“Hundreds of thousands of people labored together to move us, as astronauts, as Americans, as humans forward,” writes Anders. “The most significant revelation of Apollo 8’s journey extends far beyond our scientific-and-technological achievements, beyond our ‘records’ and ‘firsts.’ We set out to explore the moon and instead discovered the Earth.”

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