By Lyle Bateman
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
I’ve been a space geek ever since I was an 8 year old kid, and spent a summer inside glued to the TV watching the Apollo-Soyuz linkup in July 1975. I’m a little too young to have watched any of the moon landings… the last one was in 1972. I was 6 at that time, and our family didn’t have a TV set back then. But after catching the bug from Apollo-Soyuz, I spent the next few years learning everything I could about space travel and the Apollo program. Since then, I’ve been a confirmed space geek, fascinated by any new developments.
There’s an image from the early space program that I’ve written about before. I think this image is very profound and very meaningful to the human experience. Until the Apollo program, no human had ever seen the earth as it truly is… a fragile, tiny blue ball hanging in the infinite blackness of space. Images from the first Apollo missions showed us that view for the first time, and those people of my generation and younger (I was born in 1966) have grown up with that image as a natural part of how we view our home planet.
Its been quite awhile since the last image of the earth hanging in space has been taken from a distance. Most planetary probes do a few test shots of earth as they speed off towards their final destination, but we really haven’t sent any significant missions back to the moon, and the moon is really the best place from which to view the sight. Recently, the Japanese space program (JAXA) sent an unmanned mapping satellite to the moon, Kaguya, whose main function is to obtain data about the moon’s origins and formation.
Kaguya is also equipped with an HD video camera, and recently took some stunning footage of earthrise and earthset over the moon. Its posted up on You-Tube right now, accompanied by the wonderful (and wholly appropriate) Louis Armstrong version of “What a Wonderful World.” Its only about 2 minutes long, but its a very nice montage that, for me, helps give perspective to the universe in which we live. Everything that has ever happened in history happened within the confines of that tiny, fragile blue globe… images like this reinforce, for me, how small, how precious all that is, and remind me of the need to protect it for future generations. So, enjoy, contemplate, and ponder a view that has only been conceivable for half a century or less…