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Beyond Earthrise: Other Views from Apollo 8

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Apollo 8's iconic Earthrise. NASA

Apollo 8’s iconic Earthrise. NASA

“Earthrise” was taken 50 years ago this Christmas, and it’s one of the most — if not the most — iconic images of the 20th century. It’s the image that gave us the idea that we went to the Moon and discovered the Earth. But there are so many other firsts that Apollo 8 brought us, so I thought we ought to take a minute to look at some of the less celebrated but still absolutely incredible images from Apollo 8.  

 

 

But First, Who Took That Iconic Apollo 8 Earthrise Image?

A Brief History on the Mission

Launched on December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 was the first time men – specifically astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders – went to the Moon. 

It wasn’t a mission NASA had originally planned for. The agency intended to launch missions of increasing difficulty flying in alphabetical order. The “A” was an unmanned launch of the Command and Service Module (CSM) on a Saturn V rocket in Earth orbit (that turned out to be Apollos 4 and 6). The “B” mission would repeat the same mission with a Lunar Module (LM) (Apollo 5). The “C” mission would be a manned A mission (Apollo 7), the “D” mission a manned B mission (Apollo 9), then the “E” mission would fly in a high elliptical orbit. The “F” mission would go to the Moon for a dress rehearsal (Apollo 10), and the “G” mission would try for a landing (that fell to Apollo 11).

Things didn’t go according to plan, in short, because the Lunar Module fell behind schedule. Apollo 8 was supposed to be a “D” mission, but without a Lunar Module still in development, that mission couldn’t fly. The solution was to make it a “C-prime” mission — fly to the Moon without a lunar module. Rather than go all that way just to swing around and come back, NASA decided to test the lunar orbital portion of the Apollo missions by putting Apollo 8 into orbit for 10  revolutions before coming home. 

So. Apollo 8 was the first to launch men on a Saturn V to the Moon, which meant it was the first time humans sea the Earth from the Moon, but also the first time we got a close-up view of the Moon. 

Apollo 8’s Less Common Images

Starting with the launch. This is admittedly a pretty commonly used image, but it’s gorgeous and also the first time men launched on the massive Saturn V rocket.

The first manned Saturn V launch. NASA.

The first manned Saturn V launch. NASA.

Humans had seen the Earth from space before Apollo 8, but the view never gets old.

The view just south of Florida. NASA.

The view just south of Florida. NASA.

Apollo 8 was marked the first time humans saw the Earth retreating, getting small and smaller as they got further away. And some of those mid-translunar coast images (aka from halfway along the trip to the Moon, are totally gorgeous. And my personal favourites? The pictures that aren’t perfectly framed. There’s something so human in this, like you can feel how rushed and excited the crew was to capture this amazing sight for the first time in human history.

 

Translunar flight of Apollo 8. NASA.

Translunar flight of Apollo 8. NASA.

Then, of course, Apollo 8 went into orbit around the Moon on December 24, and got the first up-close look at our satellite. This was one of the dozens upon dozens of pictures taken in lunar orbit.

The Moon. NASA.

The Moon. NASA.

Another view from lunar orbit that might look familiar is this one, a less perfectly framed image of the Earth rising over of the Moon’s horizon. Personally, this is my favourite. The whole Earth is there, but the bit of windowsill reminds you that this was taken by three pilots who scrambled to capture something awe-inspiring. There’s such a subtle human element here. (I have a similar shot from Apollo 11 framed on my wall signed by Mike Collins!)

The less famous Earthrise. NASA.

The less famous Earthrise. NASA.

Leaving the Moon, Apollo 8 got this incredible view of the Moon’s terminator, the line where lunar day fades to night. I mean, look at the detail in those craters!

Leaving the Moon. NASA.

Leaving the Moon. NASA.

This is a weird one but I sort of love it. A photography experiment had the crew photograph the Moon through coloured filters. It’s just a little eerie, but also awesome. (They also took some with a blue filter.)

Red Moon. NASA.

Red Moon. NASA.

A final one from the return home, the so-called transearth coast, is one of my favourites. Views of the receding Moon always make me sad. I know the crew was happy to be home and out of the everything-is-trying-to-kill-you environment of space, but I love the adventure of going there and get sad when it’s time to come home! With the bit of the windowsill in the shot, I love the reminder that it was people and not robots that went to the Moon.

Leaving the Moon. NASA.

Leaving the Moon. NASA.

Christmas Controversy

I can’t write about Apollo 8 without mentioning the Christmas controversy. On December 24, the crew did a live TV broadcast from the Moon and read from the book of Genesis. And people were outraged. And people are still outraged! For me personally, as someone who isn’t of any Christian faith but loves history, I look at it as an historical event, plain and simple, that’s worth remembering because it was the first time people went to the Moon. Here’s a recap of the reading and the resulting lawsuit in a couple of older videos.

Happy Apollo 8 anniversary, everyone! And if you’d like to get an in-depth look at the mission, I highly recommend Apollo 8 by Jeff Kluger — an incredible book by one of my writing inspirations.

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Ecology

Today’s letters: ‘Visionary’ plans don’t always work in Ottawa

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The opinion piece written by Tobi Nussbaum, CEO of the NCC, declares that a “bold, visionary transit plan” would showcase the capital.

As a long-term resident of Ottawa, I’ve had it with visionary plans. In the 1950s, the streetcars serving Ottawa so well were sent to the scrapyards. In the early ’60s, Queensway construction bulldozed established neighbourhoods and ripped the city apart. Later in the decade, the downtown railway station, which could have formed the hub of a commuter network, was relocated to the suburbs. These actions, in the name of “progress,” were undertaken with the “vision” to make Ottawa a car-reliant city.

Now we have an LRT, built just in time for most people to realize that they do not have to go downtown as they can work from home.

Current thinking is pushing a new “link” between Ottawa and Gatineau, with yet more expensive and disruptive infrastructure projects being touted, including a tramway or another tunnel under the downtown core.

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Ecology

That was then: Biggest earthquake since 1653 rocked Ottawa in 1925

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A regular weekly look-back at some offbeat or interesting stories that have appeared in the Ottawa Citizen over its 175-year history. Today: The big one hits.

The Ottawa Senators were playing a Saturday night game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Auditorium, the score tied 0-0 halfway through the second period. Sens’ rookie Ed Gorman and the Habs’ Billy Boucher had just served penalties for a dustup when the building began to make “ominous creaking sounds.” A window crashed to the ground.

Nearby, at Lisgar Collegiate, all eyes were on teenager Roxie Carrier, in the role of Donna Cyrilla in the musical comedy El Bandido. She had the stage to herself and was singing “Sometime” when the building rocked, the spotlight went out, and someone in the audience yelled “Fire!”

At a home on Carey Avenue, one woman’s normally relaxed cat suddenly arched its back, rushed around the room two or three times, spitting angrily, and climbed up the front-window curtains.

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Ecology

Ottawa delays small nuclear reactor plan as critics decry push for new reactors

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TORONTO — Canadians will have to wait a little while longer to see the federal government’s plan for the development of small nuclear reactors, seen by proponents as critical to the country’s fight against global warming.

Speaking at the opening of a two-day virtual international conference on Wednesday, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of natural resources said the plan will lay out key actions regarding the reactors. Its launch, Paul Lefebvre said, would come in the next few weeks.

“We’re still putting the finishing touches on it,” Lefebvre said. “The action plan is too important to be rushed.”

Small modular reactors — SMRs — are smaller in size and energy output than traditional nuclear power units, and more flexible in their deployment. While conventional reactors produce around 800 megawatts of power, SMRs can deliver up to 300 megawatts.

Proponents consider them ideal as both part of the regular electricity grid as well as for use in remote locations, including industrial sites and isolated northern communities. They could also play a role in the production of hydrogen and local heating.

“SMRs will allow us to take a bold step of meeting our goal of net-zero (emissions) by 2050 while creating good, middle class jobs and strengthening our competitive advantage,” said Lefebvre.

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan had been scheduled to speak at the conference but did not due to a family emergency.

Industry critics were quick to pounce on the government’s expected SMR announcement. They called on Ottawa to halt its plans to fund the experimental technology.

While nuclear power generation produces no greenhouse gas emissions, a major problem facing the industry is its growing mound of radioactive waste. This week, the government embarked on a round of consultations about what do with the dangerous material.

Dozens of groups, including the NDP, Bloc Quebecois, Green Party and some Indigenous organizations, oppose the plan for developing small modular reactors. They want the government to fight climate change by investing more in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“We have options that are cheaper and safer and will be available quicker,” Richard Cannings, the NDP natural resources critic, said in a statement.

Lefebvre, however, said the global market for SMRs is expected to be worth between $150 billion and $300 billion a year by 2040. As one of the world’s largest producers of uranium, Canada has to be part of the wave both for economic and environmental reasons, he said.

“There’s a growing demand for smaller, simpler and affordable nuclear technology energy,” Lefebvre said.

Joe McBrearty, head of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, told the conference the company had signed a host agreement this week with Ottawa-based Global First Power for a demonstration SMR at its Chalk River campus in eastern Ontario. A demonstration reactor will allow for the assessment of the technology’s overall viability, he said.

“When talking about deploying a new technology like an SMR, building a demonstration unit is vital to the success of that process,” McBrearty said. “Most importantly, it allows the public to see the reactor, to kick the tires so to speak, and to have confidence in the safety of its operation.”

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