On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968, the Apollo 8's astronauts orbited the moon and captured one of the most iconic photos ever, an image of the Earth as it rose above the moon, known as an Earthrise. To celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission, NASA has released a new simulation of the event.
The "Earthrise" photo was taken by Frank Borman, who served as the Apollo 8's commander, and William A. Anders and James A. Lovell. The spacecraft entered the lunar orbit on Dec. 24, 1968, and it marked the first time a human orbited another planet or celestial object. During the mission, the Apollo 8 orbited the moon 10 times before returning to Earth.
The Apollo 8 was launched on Dec. 21, 1968, and it took three days to reach the moon. The mission was a historic one for NASA as it marked the first time a manned spacecraft left the Earth's orbit, the first time a human saw Earth from a lunar orbit, and the first time a human saw an Earthrise.
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio created the simulation using new data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, which was launched in 2009. The video lets viewers experience the moment the Earthrise photo was captured and is paired with audio taken from aboard the spacecraft. Project leader Ernie Wright, a scientist at the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement, "The new visualization tells us not only what time the photos were taken, but also exactly which way the spacecraft was pointing and therefore which window each photo was taken from."
According to NASA, the team matched the lunar terrain seen in the Earthrise photo with terrain data collected by the LRO. Using Apollo 8's onboard camera, which took photos of the lunar surface every 20 seconds, Wright and his team figured out the position and location of the spacecraft. The simulation also used the mission's flightplan; cloud patterns from Dec. 24, 1968; audio recordings; and the orientation of the Earth, moon and sun to create an accurate simulation.
The Earthrise simulation, courtesy of NASA, can be viewed below.