In 1968, three American astronauts spent Christmas Eve in lunar orbit. They were the first to orbit the moon, but often said that the most important thing they discovered was our own planet. They shared that discovery in a series of color images that captured what is known as Earthrise. It shows the Earth rising over the surface of the Moon.
Now, to commemorate the 45th anniversary of that mission, NASA has created a computer simulation that brings Earth-bound viewers along for the ride.
The simulation includes audio recordings from the mission.
"Got a color film, Jim?" William Anders asked. "Hand me a roll of color, quick, would you?"
"Oh man, that's great! Where is it?" James Lovell responded.
"Hurry. Quick," said Anders as the Earth rose into view.
NASA has previously simulated the mission, but this new version offers more detail, and is the first time viewers can see Earthrise unfold the way the astronauts saw it. It was created using NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft.
It also includes actual cloud patterns from the ESSA-7 satellite, dozens of photos taken by the Apollo 8 crew, and new details on the exact timing and circumstances of the moments when the photos were snapped.
"The Earthrise visualization that we released for Earth Day last year really only scratched the surface," said Ernie Wright, the project lead with the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, according to Space.com. "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. This will also be the first time we've released a video that's synchronized with the onboard audio recording of the astronauts."
As the Earth came into full view, Lovell's excitement is palpable as he tells Anders to"take several [pictures], take several of 'em!" They tell Lovell to calm down, but it was clearly an exciting moment for all.