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Space time capsule December 21, 1968

Earth seen by ApolloWhat does it mean that the stars we see in the sky represent light coming at us from millions of years before? The images we have of Earth, of ourselves from space, reflect a distant past too actually. Although we’re accustomed now to visualizing our planet from above, as a quilt of satellite photos wrapped around a globe, viewable from any distance on Google Earth, the actual vision they mimic is a single thoroughly ubiquitous NASA photo called “The Blue Marble.”

We have only a handful of actual pictures of our planet, taken during the lunar expeditions Apollo 8-17, between 1968 and 1972. Together they allow our minds to conjure our blue globe selves floating against the continuum of space, but they’re also snapshots of the past, of home forty or so years ago.

That’s not just our planet set against the dark universe, that’s you, spinning along. Were you looking up toward the astronauts on their mission as these pictures were taken? You might have watched the launch at Cape Canaveral and hours later thought about the first men to leave Earth’s orbit.

The above photo isn’t the “Blue Marble.” The image above differs from the photo taken by Apollo 17 on Pear Harbor Day, December 7, 1972. That photograph was the first to capture the Earth in full sunlight, but it showed only the Southern Hemisphere. I wanted to chose one where you’re in the picture.

The above image is the first photograph of Earth taken from space, snapped by Apollo 8 as it left for the moon, Saturday, December 21st, 1968. If you were in North America at the time, you’re at the lower right.

If you don’t remember where you were around noon on the winter solstice in 1968, here’s a subsequent photograph they took on their eighth orbit around the moon. It’s the first “Earthrise” seen by man. That was December 24, 1968, a date for which you probably have additional family snapshots.

NASA Apollo 8 orbits the moon

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