The astronauts of the Apollo 17 mission left a Christmas gift under the tree for all of humanity as they sped on their way to the Moon.
The previous Apollo missions had taken photographs of the earth in part shadow. In 'Blue Marble', taken in 1972, the Earth appears in the centre of the frame, floating in space. For the first time.
'Blue Marble' is still one of the most inspiring images of our Earth ever taken, and it was 50 years ago on Christmas Eve that they did so. Using Hasselblad photography equipment, Ronald Evans, Eugene Cernan, and Harrison Schmitt captured the blue Indian and Atlantic oceans flanking Africa - all framed by the backdrop of black, empty space.
The powerful image, says CNN, wasn’t an overnight sensation like recent JWST photos. Instead it grew slowly to be the banner image of the first environmental movement, and the Earth Day holiday which started just 2 years before.
“It gives you a much different sense of the world in which we live, that geographical and political boundaries are really meaningless when you get into space,” NASA historian Steve Garber told CNN. “And I think that’s part of what was so special about the ‘Blue Marble’ photo.”
Eugene Cernan said the same after he got home, describing it as a self-portrait of humanity.