Have you ever laid down and gazed at the stars? Have you ever imagined the immense magnitude of this universe? What is out there? What other worlds? Any other lifeforms? These questions were seemingly impossible to answer just a few hundred years ago but now we are living in a new age of exploration. Just like our ancestors dreamt of exploring the far reaches of the earth we are now dreaming to explore the far reaches of the universe. In the last hundred years we have reached an impressive number of milestones in the field of space travel, but I think two of the most influential events are the famous “earthrise” photograph taken during the Apollo 8 mission and the formation of SpaceX, a private aerospace company. The first commercial flyby to the moon is one of the most ambitious projects taken by SpaceX yet.
This odyssey is not of a mere group of people but of the entire mankind. Our journey started when the early Homo sapiens ventured out of Africa some 60,000 years ago (Map of Human Migration, NatGeo). Slowly we reached the furthest reaches of Earth but our thirst for adventure was not quenched, our curiosity for the unknown led our eyes to the stars. Gradually our world seemed too small for our ambitions and we started dreaming to set sail into the cosmic oceans. Those dreams that seemed too ambitious to accomplish in the start, started to make sense. Science fiction was quickly transforming into reality. The technology started to progress at an overwhelming rate. The first satellite ever launched was Sputnik 1, launched just 62 years ago and with it the dawn of space age started, but the grandeur of space travel was not yet understood by the general public who were too busy looking inwards at the tragedies of life. Concerned with their everyday problems of the human experience, everyone was struggling through life which seemingly got very rushed and competitive. The story of human progress has never been a simple or a peaceful one, it has been a chaotic story, but in all this chaos, sometimes there are moments that make us stop and realize that we are a part of something much greater than ourselves and no matter the hardships of life, it is still beautiful. One such moment came when William Anders took a photograph that would make the entire world stop for a moment and realize the beauty and fragility of our planet.
William Anders was one of the three astronauts aboard Apollo 8 in the year 1968(davenport). As their spacecraft was emerging from the far side of the moon the crew saw the view of the blue planet filling one of the hatch windows. The image taken during that moment made history and is one of the most influential photographs ever. There was no preparation or planning for this photograph, no angles chosen, no lighting conditions modified, no filters, no planning and as davenport says, “horizon tilted, earth slightly off-center, a moment of imprecision in a precise mission”. The photograph was a mere effort by the crew to capture the incredible weight and beauty of that moment and share it with the world. The earth looks like a small blue marble floating amongst nothingness. The surface of the moon covering the lower half of the image gives you a sense that you are standing right there on the moon and gazing at a world that seems like the only spec of color in the universe. You cannot see any borders or nations you just see a beautiful and fragile world that is ours to look after.
“Earthrise” established America as a tough opponent of the Soviet Union in the space race. It was the first ever full-color photograph of the Earth taken from space by the crew who were the first humans to leave the low earth orbit (Anders). This image marked the precise point in history when mankind truly understood the beauty and fragility of Earth while contemplating on the apparent loneliness of our world and wondering if there were more worlds like ours out there. The image was taken in a year full of tragedies, Vietnam war was going on, Martin Luther king Jr and Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, racial tensions were very high, and America was going through a social crisis (1968, USA Today). In that hard time earthrise gave hope, fueled the “environmentalist movement” and made the general public realize the recklessness of War and conflict. As Anders said, “To me it was strange that we had worked and had come all the way to the moon to study the moon, and what we really discovered was the Earth.” (davenport).
In the beginning the space race was between nations, especially between the US and the then Soviet Union. We have came a long way since then and now private organizations like SpaceX, Boeing and many others are taking over space exploration and commercializing the industry which is the next big step in space exploration. Now we are not dependent on the government organizations to carry out space exploration.
The second image shows Elon Musk, the chief executive of SpaceX, introducing Yusaku Maezawa during the launch of the project “#dearmoon”. Yusaku Maezawa would be the first private passenger to go to the moon and he is also sponsoring eight artists to go with him in 2023 (#Dearmoon). Behind Elon musk is the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket). BFR is a fully reusable rocket that would greatly decrease the cost of the mission (Spacexcmsadmin).
Project #Dearmoon would be a big moment for humanity as it would be the first commercial flight to the moon and may in turn open the possibility of space tourism. Previously only trained pilots who were selected by the government went to the space so the possibility of any common person going to space let alone orbit the moon is very exciting. What those three Apollo astronauts experienced would now be experienced by eight artists, who would be the leading people in their fields. What they would create with that experience would potentially inspire thousands more.
Space exploration is now again in full throtle and who knows what new opportunities would be opened because of it. It is an exciting time we live in and our generation would be the first to wander to other worlds and one day hopefully be a multi-planetary civilization.
- Anders, William “Bill”. “50 Years After ‘Earthrise,’ a Christmas Eve Message from Its Photographer.” Space.com, Space.com, 24 Dec. 2018, www.space.com/42848-earthrise-photo-apollo-8-legacy-bill-anders.html.
- “#DearMoon.” #DearMoon, dearmoon.earth/.
- Davenport, Christian. “Earthrise: The Stunning Photo That Changed How We See Our Planet.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 Dec. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/history/2018/12/24/earthrise-stunning-photo-that-changed-how-we-see-our-planet/?utm_term=.ad52996c8b5d.
- “Map of Human Migration.” Genographic Project, genographic.nationalgeographic.com/human-journey/.
- NASA, NASA, history.nasa.gov/sputnik/.
- Spacexcmsadmin. “Mars.” SpaceX, SpaceX, 20 Sept. 2016, www.spacex.com/mars.
- “1968 – The Year That Transformed the Nation.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/news/1968-the-year-that-transformed-the-nation/.