No photograph has ever stunned the world like this image 45 years ago today. It was the first photo of Earth from deep space. On December 24th, 1968. The Apollo 8 crew flew from the Earth to the Moon and back again. Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders were launched atop a Saturn V rocket on Dec. 21, circled the Moon ten times in their command module, and returned to Earth on Dec. 27.
As the Apollo 8 command module rounded the far side of the Moon on Dec. 24, the crew could look toward the lunar horizon and see the Earth appear to rise, due to their spacecraft's orbital path. Their famous picture of a distant blue
Earth above the Moon's limb was a marvelous gift to the world. It was instantly labeled "Earthrise."
Then and now it reminds us of the beauty, the special magic of this live vibrant ecosystem, quite different from anything else known in the universe. Today, as the Earth's climate is changing in ways unimaginable back then, it is a valuable image.
It would be hard to let this moment pass, without noting that the most dominant feature of the planet will change this century: the boundary between land and ocean. The ice sheets and glaciers are melting. The sea is rising. The coastline has started an inexorable move inland.
By mid century, close examination of photos like these will reveal subtle changes not only to small island nations but to low lying ares of the major continents. The shoreline will have visibly moved inland, unable to return to the present location until the planet cools to the point where the ice sheets can return to their expansion mode.
Such changes have happened naturally over geologic time, but now are happening at what might be termed "warp speed" hundreds of times faster than in the last hundred million years. These special images from space not only allow scientists to better monitor change, but allow a moment for all of us to reflect. Worth sharing.