The year 1968. The way I see it, it was one of the the worst years in American history. It started with the Tet Offensive: dozens of strikes by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese agents across South Vietnam. It awoke Americans to the fact that, despite everything their government told them, the Vietnam War was not going their way. Then in April, the Civil Rights Movement lost one of its greatest champions. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination triggered riots across the country poured out their grief. Then, a few short months later, presdiential candidate Robert Kennedy was assassinated. It must have felt like the world was caving in. America needed something good to end the year on. What it got can only be described as a kind of magic. Magic that comes from being in the right place in the right time and making history. We got Earthrise.
For seven years, NASA had been moving step by step in its exploration of space. The endgame: landing a man on the moon and return him home before the decade was out. With less than a year left before the deadline, NASA decided to speed up its plans: they would travel all the way to the moon before the year’s end. So, on December 21st, 1968, a Saturn V rocket carried three men, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, to deep space. For the first time, humanity would leave Earth behind and head for deep space. They weren’t even sure if they could make it to the moon. Even the astronauts said the odds of success were fifty-fifty.
Three days later, Christmas Eve, 1968. Apollo 8 prepared for the burn that would place it in orbit around the moon. For several tense minutes, there would be no contact between Earth and the crew. Down to the very second, the crew reported in. It was one of the most important events in human history. But that was nothing compared to what the crew and the people on Earth saw next. I’m not going to even bother describing it, just watch this clip:
I wasn’t alive when this moment happened, but when I learned about the story about this moment, I felt like I was going to cry from how beautiful it was. To see the world that we called our home, the only place in the universe that we can call our home, and then to hear the crew of Apollo 8 read from the Book of Genesis, on Christmas Eve no less! I know it sounds cheesy, but it feels it like was true miracle, the greatest gift humanity had ever gotten. The Christmas that mankind saw its home as it truly was, something very special.
Mankind needed Earthrise when it happened. The year had seen pain and hardship and turmoil. America had opened its eyes to the war it was fighting, it felt loss, and then despair. But in just a few moments, all that hardship was erased by the sight of our home. And mankind knew how important that moment was. Time chose the crew of Apollo 8 as its Men of the Year. After the crew came back, Frank Borman recieved a simple telegram that sums the importance of Earthrise:
Thank you, Apollo 8. You saved 1968.
Fifty years tonight since that fateful moment, and so much has changed. 2018 has seen its fair share of triumphs and losses. Movie history was made, there were controversies, tragedies, and the loss of great people (Stan Lee, Stephen Hillenberg, and more). We could use something like Earthrise again, but I think we can do something just as good. Tonight, look at one of the greatest photo’s in human history and remember what we can do with the will and drive to succeed. If we can go to the moon, then we are just as capable of solving the many problems our world is facing. Good night, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays no matter who you are or where you come from.