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October 2, 2014

Earthrise Audio: What it sounded like to take mankind’s greatest photo.

Considered to be one of the most important photographs ever taken, this audio is from the Apollo 8 mission in which William Anders captured the Earth rising above the moon. The photo has come to be called “Earthrise.”

Astronauts may be fascinating people, but they sure don’t show it. In the recording, Anders can be heard asking for a roll of color film:

Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! There’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty.

Still, the surprise can be heard in is words. The awkward pausing between phrases, suggesting a sort of disorientation. We’ve all seen something so “breathtaking.”

Anders says “the Earth,” — “Look at that picture over there! There’s the Earth coming up.”

Not “Earth.” The Earth. As if there were only one. Anders can’t be blamed. It’s the only one he ever knew.

It reminds me of an early chapter in Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot called “The Great Demotions” in which Sagan details the decline of  geocentric arrogance over the period of a few hundred years — Look at this blue ball rotating over the moon; that’s where we’re from, and would so much like to come home safely to. Who can say they’ve seen their home planet from such a distance? No one has ever been further from home than an astronaut.

Listen:

Apollo 8. December 8th, 1968. NASA / Bill Anders

Apollo 8. December 8th, 1968. NASA / Bill Anders