There’s an overfamiliar-yet-fresh feel to the film Earthrise, documenting the moment humans first photographed Earth appearing behind the moon. Familiar because, raised on images and imaginations of manned space exploration as it happened, I’ve seen this photograph so many times: the small, watery rock teeming with invisible life. Fresh because the film lets us see back through the eyes of three elderly men who were there then, alone: emerging from profound blackness never experienced before, after hours scanning endless, dead grey dust no one had yet walked on – and feeling their eyeballs flood with the only colour to be had anywhere: first sight of distant home. It moved them then, fifty years ago this December, and you can see it move them now, looking back.
Now, Bill Anders says, “One frame had shown exactly our existence.” Then, James Lovell quoted a poet’s view of that fresh image to the US Congress, Archibald MacLeish: “To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold — brothers who know now they are truly brothers.”