William Anders, Apollo 8, 44 years ago this month. . .
Took this incredible, iconic shot
Listen closely to what he says about a guiding purpose of those missions (Pacific Northwest Magazine):
“And let’s get real about what pushed us in the first place: “Apollo was all about beating the Russians to the moon,” says Anders, a nuclear engineer who once headed a critical U.S. commission on the future of post-Apollo spaceflight. “It was not to get rocks. We went to the moon to stick the flag in.”
And what he says about the future of spaceflight:
“Anders was no fan of George W. Bush’s announced plan to return to the moon as a springboard to Mars. And unlike many of his fellow NASA alums, who sharply criticized the Obama administration for shelving those plans, he argues for a leaner space agency that’s less of a budgetary monster. In the short term, he says, America is doing the correct, and affordable, thing by launching unmanned probes such as the Curiosity rover, and farming the heavy lifting of near space to private industry.
He warns against another space race to the next available planet.
“If humans are going to Mars to explore, then they ought to do it as united humans, not just jingoistic Americans,” he says, adding, “I don’t see it happening for another couple hundred years — if we’re still around.”
And how his flight changed his views on Religion:
“Ironically, Anders’ six days in space forever altered his own view of his place in the universe. Raised a Catholic, Anders says he held generally to a traditional Christian viewpoint of the Earth being created by a God who fashioned Earthlings in his own image.
The view from space changed everything.
Earth, seen from the moon, Anders explains, looks to be about the size of your fist at arm’s length. Two lunar distances away, it’s half that size; at eight, it’s one-eighth of that. And so on. Even at 100 lunar distances, still far short of Mars or any other planet, Earth is rendered as a dust speck — beyond insignificant against the vast scale of the universe.
It is one thing to imagine this. It’s another to get far enough into space to feel it.
“When I looked back and saw that tiny Earth, it snapped my world view,” Anders says. “Here we are, on kind of a physically inconsequential planet, going around a not particularly significant star, going around a galaxy of billions of stars that’s not a particularly significant galaxy — in a universe where there’s billions and billions of galaxies.”
“Are we really that special? I don’t think so.”