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A tale to win bar bets, and just to set the record straight.

Given this week’s Apollo 11 moon hype and Cronkite’s passing, one other rememberance is sure to be featured: the “Earthrise” photo shot Chrismas Eve, 1968, during Apollo 8’s historic first moono fly-by.   BUT, this  iconic image   is almost universally wrongly published, a 40-year old “trick” of perspective still perpetuated today.

OK, not the hoax of the century (and a shameless claim to grab readership here).  But trickery it is, none-the-less.

NASA and media of the day made a journalistic tweak to the now famous  “Earthrise ” William Alders’ color photo.  In truth, the  picture was actually taken from the perspective of being in orbit around the lunar equator – ie vertical.   However, since release of the images, in almost every case, the color shot is published horizontally ( – from the perspective of Earth “rising” over a lunar horizon (below an example from one of the largest/best known photo library resources, Getty).

The original (left) and the common use (right

An original example of “citizen journalism?

Earthrise Comparison

 The photo itself was not somthing planned… was not “in the mission profile”.  It was pure “citizen journalist” before the term was even a glint in some Social Media pundit’s eye.  The capsule cockpit recording tells the story:  Mission Commander, Frank Borman, was steering his spacecraft to point radio antennas toward Earth after emerging from behind the dar-side of the moon.  This required a roll maneuver to vertical.  As swumg upright, Borman glanced out his tiny, pilot’s window and saw the now famous Earth/Moon scene, calling Alder’s and third crew member, James Lovell, to attention.

A grab for cameras (yes, plural), was the natural reaction.  The full-frame image is was truely  square, taken with a Sweedish-made Hasselblad. 

In all, there were three pictures taken… one in black and white (taken by Borman himself,) and two in color (both taken by Alders).  Interestingly, the two men approached the scene differently. Borman rotated his camera to capture a picture in “Earth-rising” position.  Alders shot his two color photos as the image actually appeared in real-time/real geometry.  The color photo made headlines but is now frequently published and archived incorrectly v. the original image orientation.

…and now,  you know the rest of the story (Paul Harvy)

…and that’s the way it is… (Walter Cronkite)

…and so it goes… (Kurt Vonnegut)

…tweet, tweet…  (ScoopD)



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