Last night was the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8's Christmas Eve broadcast. For the anniversary, Bill Anders has reflected on the journey and I've edited some of it for a Christmas message.
The Earth we saw rising over the battered grey lunar surface was small and delicate, a magnificent spot of color in the vast blackness of space. Borders that once rendered division vanished. All of humanity appeared joined together on this glorious-but-fragile sphere.
Another vision made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I held my fist at arm's length. That stunning vision disappeared. From one lunar distance our world was easily obscured. At 100 — then and now far beyond human reach — Earth would no longer be visible to the naked eye. Here was everything humans had been, everything we were, and everything we might become — and yet our home planet was physically insignificant in space.
I thought of my wife and five children on that little planet. The same forces that determined their fates worked on the other three-and-a-half-billion inhabitants. From our tiny capsule, it seemed as if the whole Earth was smaller even than the space the three of us inhabited. From there, the blue-and-white glory of Earth, the only color amidst the blackness of space, became a beacon.
The most significant revelation of Apollo 8's journey extends far beyond our scientific-and-technological achievements, beyond our "records" and "firsts."
We set out to explore the moon and instead discovered the Earth.