Third Pod from the Sun

Third Pod from the Sun


April 20, 2020

On 24 December 1968, humans witnessed our home planet rise over the horizon of another world for the first time. The crew of Apollo 8 looked up from the Moon to see the blue and white swirls of Earth poised above the stark grey lunar surface—a single oasis in a big, dark universe. The moment, captured on 70mm color film, captivated audiences back on Earth. It fueled the environmental movement and the first Earth Day, which convened a little over a year later, on 22 April 1970.

For the 50th Earth Day, we talk with Ernie Wright, a programmer and producer for the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Wright recreated that iconic Earthrise photo and animated it with the kind of 3D animation software Hollywood uses to bring CGI landscapes to life, using detailed surface images and altimetry from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. He talks about recreating the moment with Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, and how he used math to solve a puzzle about who took the famous photo.

This episode was produced by Liza Lester and mixed by Lauren Lipuma.