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50 years later, it still processes the message of hope and devastation of Apollo 8


The World's Transforming Photo: The Land photographed by Bill Anders, at 16:40 UT on December 24, 1968. The front surface of the moon is slightly above 100 miles wide. This version is color corrected and rotated to a more natural orientation. (Credit: NASA)

About two billion years ago, the first photosynthetic algae developed the ability to respond to light – the brilliant Sun of the day, the spectral Moon at night. About 700 million years ago primitive eyes appeared; then, during the Cambrian era, creatures similar to the arthropod looked at the sky through true eyes, preserving lunar elevation and setting with their understanding of arthropod. Thus, it continued in the following chapters of life in which mammals, primates, hominins and Homo sapiens, the last of them plotting for the Moon's movements and mapping the floating terrain to a companion on Earth.

Then, 50 years ago, the prospect was turned over. Apollo 8 flew a pattern of eight figures around the moon, and on December 24, 1968, three NASA astronauts looked at the first Land in the history of life. Most of the reminiscences that now emerge through the media focus on the Earth itself, which is considered fraudulent and beautiful from afar. But the true power of the picture comes from its unification of two views that have never been seen: our blue planet, wrapped with air and water and hope, in contrast to the remarkable gray devastation of the moon.

To feel this power completely, you need to see the Earth not as a photo, but as an event, an experience that is immersed in its time and place. I recently had the opportunity to do just that in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Carter Emmart, director of visualization at the museum, has compiled the Apollo 8 monument that combines the original astronaut images with documentary clips for the United States in 1968 and, more importantly, detailed simulations of the Apollo 8 path around the moon. The simulation allows you to observe the lunar landscape that floats down, synchronized with the astronauts' conversations with mission control, to restore the significant total of the moment the Earth emerges from behind the moon's dust.

Most people will not have the opportunity to visit the museum, but they can create much of the event that draws resources that are available online – some of them created with the help of Emart. It has provided a useful list of those resources, which I have included at the end of this post. But first I wanted to share some of his thoughts about the survival of Apollo 8, along with the memorable words of the Apollo 8 astronauts themselves.

It seems bitter, remembering such a great moment when we did not return to the moon by Apollo 17. Do you feel that way too?

Emmart: People say, "We could have come to Mars until the mid-1980s if we continued to move." The truth is that the purpose of going to the moon was attacked by politicians as soon as it was announced. But, indeed, they are small details. Apollo 8 is a monument and does not leave. You can visit Smithsonian and see Apollo pieces, but the real monument is in heaven. It reminds us that this world is a bridge to the universe. Earth is just another orbit, we are in the sky on the Moon just as the moon is in our.

The future is happening slower than we hoped, but our visualization capabilities allow us to walk in a different way.

Idealized recreation at Earthrise moment, thanks to NASA Science Visualization Studio. This is part of a complete video. (Credit: NASA)

Idealized recreation at Earthrise moment, thanks to NASA Science Visualization Studio. This is part of a complete video. (Credit: NASA)

What did you learn about the moment of Earth's appearance as you set it to recreate it?

Emart: That picture has such an inheritance. When you think of Apollo, do you mean that picture? Before, the moon was something in the landscape, romantic and mythological. Then we were suddenly there, above this devastated landscape – "a magnificent wasteland", as Baz Aldrin said. The lifeless moon under the earth, where we all live what we know is. I also wanted to be able to see the Earth in real time, as the Apollo 8 crew fired the transporter's missile engine to track down the Earth.

The Apollo program was for everyone there. Lunch was around the moon. Kennedy's speech was about the moon and the stars. But when we got there, we looked back, and that really changed things. It ignited the environmental movement. The country has never been without contention, but in 1968 it was a particularly difficult period. With Apollo 8, we looked back at all the screams and screams and everything that parted us, and we saw a counterpoint: this is our place, it's nice, and it's alive. This contrasts with Moon's disbelief.

You talk about Land as a spontaneous moment. What do you mean by that?

Emart: NASA was detailed in detail for a split second, but images on Earth only happened: "Yes, I will paint for it." It only connects to such a human level. When astronauts demanded that they say something that is appropriate to say [on their Christmas Eve broadcast], they chose Genesis from the Old Testament, one of the deepest myths in the past. It was a surprise even for flight controllers. Gene Kranz [the NASA flight director] said there were tears in her eyes, because it was so great.

Looking back on Earth was really deep. We knew what our planet is, but we really do not you know until we saw him.

The perception of desertion is actually encountered in the words of astronauts and in visual representations when the full earthly expressions take place.

Emart: I do not want to be contrarian and say, "Listen to what they said about the moon, it's terrible!" But that's a reflection of it. With the visualization of power, I felt that devastation looked at it. All three of them [on Apollo 8] spoke of how the moon was beautiful, but had a strong, unbroken quality. Lonely. Not a very pleasant place to live or work. I think NASA was exhausting [about the gloomy tone of their comments]. But I'm glad that NASA did not regulate their reactions. They reacted in a very human way.

How does this feeling of desolation affect the way that the earth has felt?

Emart: You listen to astronauts to discuss how the blackness of space has a personality for it. [Apollo 17 astronaut] Gene Cernan said rude, "You see the sun and it's blazing, it's too light to look, and then you turn to the side and that light just comes out into the blackness that swallowed it." It is a blackness that is almost beyond the conception. And then the light hits something! When it hits the moon, it is charcoal gray. Now take the coal gray and turn white from the clouds of the earth and the blues of the ocean and green vegetables and desert deserts.

This is a palette of the artist, a palette that you do not see elsewhere in the solar system. Earth sparkles with life. Then you will see the moon. It's out of our magnetosphere, we get the soil, which is a glass, it's really a hard place. It was an important message in the image of Apollo 8. The mission was to beat the Russians on the moon, but then turned into a sudden moment at Kumbaya. This is we, all of us, in the picture together, whether we like it or not.

You can experience the experience of Apollo 8, right up to the exact orientation of the spacecraft and the moments of the conversation. (Credit: NASA / SBS)

You can experience the experience of Apollo 8, right up to the exact orientation of the spacecraft and the moments of the conversation. (Credit: NASA / SBS)

The Apollo 8 astronauts should get the last word, so here are their own spontaneous reactions to see the moon, in contrast to the scenic azure spirit on Earth.

Frank Bormann: The moon is a different thing for each of us. I think that each of us – everyone brings his own impression of what he has seen today. I know that my impression is that it is a vast, lonely, frightening existence or a space that looks more like clouds and clouds of pebble stones, and certainly will not seem to be a very pleasant place to live or work.

Jim Lowell: My thoughts are very similar. The huge loneliness here on the moon is terribly inspiring and allows you to grasp just what you have there on Earth. The country from here is a great oasis in the great spaciousness of space.

Bill Anders: I think I was most impressed by the lunar glows and the sunset. Especially the terrible nature of the terrain is distinguished, and the long shadows are really coming out of the relief that is here and it is difficult to see on this very bright surface that we are now passing … The sky here is also quite banned, the premonition of spending blackness, no stars visible when flying over the Moonlight Day.

OTHER RESOURCES that allow you to share the experience of Apollo 8:

The OpenSpace software is designed for the type of trajectory information that describes the secondary accuracy necessary to accurately describe space missions. The site has downloaded open source software, description and videos, including tutorials.

Researchers from the NASA-JPL and the Ames Research Center have built up a wonderful intuitive browser that can also display 3D views and 3D-modeling of the Moon.

NASA Goddard has a fantastic Earth Weather Browser. You can go directly to the picture if you like.

Carter Emart worked with a group of students to use photogrammetry to breathe new visual life into the old images of the Haselblad on the moon.

We still have the full team of Apollo 8, which remained the only team. They were honored last month at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry with host and author Robert Curson, who recently wrote his story in the Rocket Men's book. There's a video for this unique memorial event.

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