Floating In A Most Peculiar Way

When Apollo 8 came round from the far side of the moon, and the Commander, Frank Borman, rolled the spacecraft to point its antennas back to Earth to reestablish radio contact, the astronauts were presented with the incredible view of a half-Earth next to the horizon of the Moon.

Borman and William Anders both grabbed cameras to capture the moment. There was a bit of confusion later about who shot which picture, but it’s accepted now that Anders took the colour one that became such an icon. But Borman’s black and white one is pretty good too.

Anders

Borman

But here’s the thing, Borman’s is “the right way up” — the way he composed it and took it, but the more famous one, Anders’ photo, isn’t.

Of course, there’s no up and down in zero-G. Experienced astronauts tend to pick an orientation and stick with it for a while, since constant changing can lead to space sickness (messy). But in Borman’s mind, the spacecraft was flying over the lunar landscape, like a high-altitude aircraft; and the Earth was “up in the sky” ahead.

Anders was looking at it differently. To him, they were orbiting around the equator of a solid sphere. “Up” was aligned with the Moon’s axis of rotation, and the Earth was “ahead”, also rotating “upright”, with the North Pole at the top. To me, Anders’ viewpoint is the more astronautical as opposed to Borman’s terrestrial image — more ‘Space Oddyssey’. Here’s how it should look:

Right way up

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