(CNN) — On Christmas Eve 1972, humanity was given a gift: a portrait of the Earth as a vivid globe.
Clouds swirl over the vast African continent and the southern polar cap, all set against the deep blue of our world’s oceans.
The iconic photo, known as the “Blue Marble” or blue marblewas taken by NASA astronauts Eugene “Gene” Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmitt, on December 7, with a Hasselblad camera and Zeiss lens, about 28,000 miles from home, as the Apollo 17 crew headed to the moon.
The detailed image of our planet, framed in the black void of space, captured the awe of spaceflight in a single frame. (When the astronauts were asked who got the credit for pulling the trigger, they were reticent.)
This is the so-called “big picture effect”, the unique point of view that astronauts have of the Earth as a planet against the vast backdrop of the universe. Many astronauts have reported feeling more protective of our home and its thin atmosphere, both so fragile from space, after gaining this perspective.
The Apollo 17 crew did not set out to capture such an iconic image, said Stephen Garber, a historian with NASA’s History Division. Nor was it a key component of the mission plan.
But since the Gemini program in the 1960s, NASA had ensured that all astronauts were trained in photography to capture images that could communicate the experience — and majesty — of spaceflight to the world, Teasel Muir-said. Harmony, curator of Apollo at the National Air and Space Museum.
“It was part of this broader awareness of the value of images, not only from a scientific point of view, but also from a cultural and political point of view, and all the other aspects that motivated the decision to take cameras into space.”
The moment was reminiscent of another Christmas Eve, four years earlier, when Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders became the first humans to orbit the Moon and witness the moon. exit from earthwhen our planet rose above the desolate and scarred lunar surface.
“We came here to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we have discovered the Earth,” Anders said.
The first photos of Earth taken by humans during the Apollo missions have become some of the most reproduced of all time, and 50 years later, their power and influence remain.
However, the blue marble it did not resonate immediately.
The image didn’t make front pages of newspapers around the world, partly because it faced stiff competition from other news stories.
At that time, the American involvement in the Vietnam War was coming to an end and President Richard Nixon had launched an intense bombing campaign to try to end the conflict. Former President Harry Truman was ill and passed away on December 26. Meanwhile, newspapers around the world were abuzz with sensational headlines about cannibalism following the discovery in mid-December of survivors of a plane crash in the Andes months earlier.
But although the photo blue marble He didn’t create a revolution overnight, he came to play a major role in the growing environmental movement.
The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. Over time, the Apollo 17 photo became the event’s banner image and part of the iconography of the environmental movement, Muir-Harmony explained. Before the blue marblethe campaign images had often focused on pollution, gas masks and endangered species.
A self portrait of humanity
Apollo 17 marked the end of the Apollo lunar exploration program, which was responsible for renewing scientific interest in space exploration while inspiring the public. During pre-flight training, astronauts on the mission said the impending demise of the program had felt like a “black cloud” hanging over them.
“Everyone working on the program was very aware that this was the last mission, and that really influenced the experience,” Muir-Harmony said.
Over time, his image of the blue marble It has been associated with philosophy, the value of exploration, and the role that science and technology play in our society.
“It has an incredible resonance,” says Muir-Harmony. “The ubiquity of this image is now part of her story.”
His favorite anecdote about photography comes from an interview Cernan gave after returning to Earth.
He stressed that the image should be understood from a philosophical perspective, because it is a self-portrait of humanity.
“It gives you a very different idea of the world we live in, that geographic and political boundaries are meaningless when you’re in space,” Garber said. “And I think that’s part of what was so special about the photo of the blue marble“.
Source: CNN Espanol