"The Full Earth" Photo acquired on December 22, 1968, by the Apollo 8 crew with a 77 mm camera. Credits: NASA

The “Full Earth” Photo: A Retrospective Look at Apollo 8’s Groundbreaking Mission

In 1968, during the Apollo 8 Mission, an iconic photograph of Earth was taken that would go on to become one of the most memorable images of the 20th century.

On December 21, 1968, the Apollo 8 Spacecraft made history as it became the first manned mission to orbit the Moon.

A busy Launch Control Center at Kennedy Space Center, during the Apollo 8 mission prelaunch activities, on December 21, 1968. Credits: NASA
A busy Launch Control Center at Kennedy Space Center, during the Apollo 8 mission prelaunch activities, on December 21, 1968. Credits: NASA

The mission was a major milestone in the history of space exploration, marking the first time that humans had left Earth’s orbit and ventured to another celestial body. The mission was also a critical step in the United States’ efforts to land astronauts on the Moon, which would eventually be achieved by the Apollo 11 Mission just over a year later.


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How “The Full Earth” was born

While the Apollo 8 mission was significant in itself, it was the iconic photograph taken during the mission that would go on to become one of the most memorable images of the 20th century.

The photograph, titled “The Full Earth”, was taken by Astronaut William Anders while the spacecraft was in lunar orbit. It shows a view of the entire Earth, with Africa and the Middle East visible in the foreground and North and South America in the background.

"The Full Earth" Photo acquired on December 22, 1968, by the Apollo 8 crew with a 77 mm camera. Credits: NASA
“The Full Earth” Photo was acquired on December 22, 1968, by the Apollo 8 crew with a 77 mm camera. Credits: NASA

The image was immediately recognized as a masterpiece, and it has since become a symbol of the Earth’s beauty and unity. The photograph was taken at a time when tensions were high between the United States and the Soviet Union, and it served as a reminder of the shared humanity of all people on Earth.

In the years since its release, “The Full Earth” has become an enduring symbol of the human desire to explore and understand the universe around us.


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The Mission

The Apollo 8 Mission was the first manned mission to be launched by the Saturn V Rocket, which was developed by NASA as part of the Apollo program. The mission was commanded by Frank Borman, with James Lovell and William Anders serving as the Pilot and Lunar Module Pilot, respectively.

The Apollo 8's Saturn V makes its way from the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building to pad A, launch complex 39, on October 9, 1968. Credits: NASA
The Apollo 8’s Saturn V makes its way from the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building to pad A, launch complex 39, on October 9, 1968. Credits: NASA

The spacecraft was launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on December 21, 1968, and it entered in Lunar Orbit on December 24.

During the mission, the astronauts conducted a number of scientific experiments and took numerous photographs of the Moon’s surface. They also made several live television broadcasts from the spacecraft, giving viewers on Earth a glimpse of the Moon and the Earth as seen from space.

The "Earthrise" Picture showing Earth rising over the Moon’s horizon. Credits: NASA
The “Earthrise” Picture showing Earth rising over the Moon’s horizon. Credits: NASA

One of the most memorable moments of the mission came on Christmas Eve when the astronauts read from the Book of Genesis during a live television broadcast. The reading, which was heard by millions of people around the world, was seen as a gesture of peace and unity at a time when, as we mentioned before, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were high.


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Return to Earth and Today’s Impact

After completing their Mission, the Apollo 8 astronauts returned to Earth on December 27, 1968. The mission was a resounding success and laid the groundwork for future manned Missions to the Moon.

Divers in action during the Apollo 8 recovery, on December 27, 1968. Credits: NASA
Divers in action during the Apollo 8 recovery, on December 27, 1968. Credits: NASA

Today, “The Full Earth” continues to inspire new generations of space explorers and remind us of the beauty and unity of our planet. It is a testament to the power of human curiosity and the enduring spirit of exploration.

The crew of Apollo 8 addresses the crew of the USS Yorktown after a successful splashdown and recovery. Credits: NASA
The crew of Apollo 8 addresses the crew of the USS Yorktown after a successful splashdown and recovery. Credits: NASA

As we continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and explore the vastness of space, it is important to remember the lessons of the Apollo 8 Mission and the powerful impact that a single photograph can have on the world.


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Edoardo Giammarino

Edoardo Giammarino

Co-Founder & Administrator. Drummer and Red Cross Volunteer, born in 1997. I like analog photography and videomaking. Firmly music-addicted.

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