Earthrise: Celebrating the Photograph that Changed (How We View) the World

>>John Haskell:
Welcome, everyone, to the Library of Congress. I’m John Haskell, director of the Kluge Center
here at the Library. The Kluge Center brings leading
thinkers in the humanities and social sciences to
the Library for periods in residence, to do
research in the collections, and we showcase the
work of those scholars in public events like this. This afternoon, Bruce Clarke,
who’s sitting directly next to me here, the Baruch Blumberg
NASA/Library of Congress chair in astrobiology, and the
Paul Whitfield Horn professor of literature and science
at Texas Tech University, will moderate a discussion
on the rich cultural impact of the so-call Earthrise photo. The first photo of the
Earth from the perspective of the moon, which was
taken on December 24, 1968. I do want to recognize one of
our alumni Blumberg chairs, David Grinspoon, is
sitting over there, and raising his hand
over there, and — [ Applause ] — I’m going to quickly
introduce the other panelists, and we’ll get right to it. Next to — next to Bruce is
media artist David McConville, who will speak broadly to
the impact the photograph had on our worldview,
perhaps comparable really in certain respects to
the Copernican revolution. Co-director of the — Anne
Goodyear, right next to him, co-director of the Bowden — Bowdoin College Museum of Arts
explores the interconnection between art, and the tremendous
advances in technology as reflected in the
Apollo mission. Next to Anne is Neil Maher. He looks at how the
Earthrise photo became an icon of the environmental movement. Neil is a — an historian
at Rutgers University. And at the end, Margaret
Weitekamp of the National Air and Space Museum — I should
note that Margaret’s quoted in obituaries for
Jerrie Cobb in the — who was in the first
cohort of female astronauts in the late ’50s and early ’60s. She’s quoted both in
“The New York Times” and “The Washington Post” today,
but you can look — it’s a — they’re fascinating obituaries. Margaret would rather have you
read the “New York Times” one, as her book is cited
there [laughter]. She works at the National Air
and Space Museum, as I noted, and considers how
expressive artifacts from spaceflight missions
have conveyed a sense of our human identity. I’m going to turn this over
to Bruce, but please join me in welcoming the entire panel. [ Applause ]>>Bruce Clarke: Thank
you so much, everyone. It’s really wonderful to see
you here in this glorious room, and welcome once again
to the Kluge Center. Here we are at Earth Rise Day. Yesterday was Earth Day, and I have declared today
Earth Rise Day [laughter], to carry on that theme. Now, let’s see how
we’re doing here. There we go. So I am privileged to be this
year’s Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress chair
in astrobiology, and as you see, the — it explains the task
that the Blumberg chair — one of the important ones
is to bring astrobiology to a wider public, and kind of
explain what that’s all about. So — so perhaps you’re asking
yourself, what is astrobiology? So I thought — well, there’s — it is the scientific study
of life in the universe. So you’ve got your astrophysics,
perhaps more familiar with astrophysics because
we — science believes, with good foundation,
that the matter and energy of the universe is,
in fact, universal. And so, we can study
distant galaxies on the basis of what we understand for
atoms, and chemical reactions, and how energies move
through the world, but what about biology? I mean, that’s the question. Is biology — is there any
other biology out there? That’s the question astrobiology
asks, and if we can find some, then we’d have something
to compare to the biology that we’re familiar with. So biology, as a science, has developed not giving
really a thought to the cosmos, but just saying, “Life
on Earth is life.” Like, the — life is life on
Earth, but give that just a bit of a cosmological twist,
and then you think, but isn’t there more life out
there in the universe somewhere? Well, let’s see if
we can find it, and think about how we might
detect it from a distance. So astrobiology is a kind of
— it’s a super-biological — it’s a cosmological
twist on biology. Okay. Now, Earthrise — here
is one of many celebrations, this one from the wonderful
writer Lewis Thomas, seized by James Lovelock,
co-author of the Gaia hypothesis as a — as an epigraph
for his second book. “Viewed from the distance of
the moon, the astonishing thing about the Earth catching the
breath is that it is alive. Aloft, floating free beneath
the moist, gleaming membrane of bright, blue sky
is the rising Earth, the only exuberant thing in
this part of the cosmos.” If you could look long enough,
you’d see the clouds swirling. If you had been looking a
very long geologic time, you could’ve seen the
continents themselves in motion. That’s the astrobiological
view that can open up out of Earthrise to think
about that long — the Earth in its long
tenure as a planet in the solar system
evolving under the clouds. So Gaia, which is actually my
topic of research while I’m here as the astrobiology
chair, looking into the — NASA’s connection to the
origins of Gaia theory. Gaia is an astrobiological
object as well, a child of NASA. Now, I want to very
briefly take you through one more revolution
in human perspective. So if you happen to Google
Earthrise, but you look — but you went to the
Apollo 8 part of NASA’s website resources,
you — you might find this page. And you look at it, and
you say, “What’s wrong? Did they forget to
put it the right way?” But in fact, interestingly,
the caption reads, “This view of the rising Earth
greeted the Apollo 8 astronauts. The photo is displayed here
in its original orientation.” Well, what does orientation
mean when you’re in space? So all that means is
that he was in a capsule, and you can see the
animation in the next room. There’s a wonderful
NASA animation of the — sort of the event of the
taking of the photograph. It just meant that as he
was standing on the floor of his lunar orbiter,
he took the picture, and it came out looking
like that. So — but the orientation
is, in space, arbitrary. But that reminds us that — but then, when you flip it
— so there’s Earthrise. This has now made the Earthrise. That 90-degree turn has
given us an Earthrise, where before we had a
moonrise, or a sunrise, but now we’ve got orientation
because we are evolved to feel that down is where the Earth
is, and up is toward the sky. And if it’s — so
it must be going up, and so the Earth is rising. But that’s already
a kind of artifact of the way we see things. Yeah. That was my cool point I
wanted to make [laughter], okay? So given the original
orientation, a 90-degree twist —
I’m now going to read — frames the image in terms of our
habitual orientation on Earth in relation to the
sun and the moon. Earthrise, then, has
been invented as much as it’s been discovered,
and captured by a really good camera, which gives the great
production values. It responds to our desire and
our need for cosmic orientation. We need — yeah, you got to
orient to somewhere [laughter]. Here on Earth, Earthrise brings
us back to Earth in reminding us of our need for orientation. Now, then, these four wonderful
speakers are going to take us on a journey that will loop away
from Earthrise and back again, bringing in really
fascinating horizons of interest in this object that has
brought us here today. And so, buckle your seatbelts. We’ll take a ride through
space and time, and, David, the floor is yours.>>David McConville: Thank
you, Bruce, and happy birthday. Earth Rise Day happens to fall
on Bruno’s birthday today. Yeah. [ Applause ] So thank you for the invitation, and I thought it would be
maybe appropriate to start off with some historical reflections on the significance
of this image. But it’s really the story of
our collective imagination, and to back into this, we really
need to revisit time immemorial. For countless generations, cultures around the
world have believed that the Earth was alive, that our species’ survival has
really depended on our ability to synchronize with
the cycles of life — way-finding, timekeeping,
hunting, gathering, all kinds of things. And the key to this was
the accurate observations of celestial objects, in
particular this celestial sphere which seemed to rotate around
a central point at the middle of the heavens, and this
was widely perceived as the axis mundi, the
center of the world, the portal between
the heavens and Earth. But in ancient Greece,
around 2500 years ago, a radical new vision emerged. In his “Timaeus,” Plato
described the creation of a spherical cosmos
by a rational architect who brought order out
of the elemental chaos, and infused the living
world with its soul. And Plato insisted that the
human intellect could know the mind of this creator, this
architect, and in short, Plato began imagining the
world from the outside, not from inside of
the celestial sphere. And it was from this
disembodied, Platonic perspective
that planted — that the seeds of the western
paradigm were really planted, that Plato’s student
Aristotle later came long and described the heavens
as a series of these kind of masculine spheres
surrounding a feminine Earth. The spheres were eternal. The Earth was corruptible. And in the Middle Ages, this cosmological paradigm was
rediscovered, and it was adopted by the Catholic and
Protestant Churches. And they retained the idea
that Earth was at the center, and it was a corruptible
center of the cosmos. It was the realm of sin,
of death, and decay. It was actually the
furthest place from heaven, and existence was believed to
be a continuum defined by a kind of hierarchical scale. This came to be known as the
great chain of being, with, of course, God naturally at
the top, outside of the cosmos, like the creator, and here,
in this 17th-century image, you can see the name
of God in the clouds, literally holding a chain around
the wrist of Mother Nature. So it was quite literally
assumed to be a chain of being. Another image from 1579 — this continuum of existence
was defined by a kind of hierarchical scale, and
here we see God at the top. Let’s see — going down through
the layers, we see the humans, the angels — the angels at
the top, then the humans, then the animals, then the
plants, then the minerals, and at the very bottom, you see
Hell, which was, if you remember in Dante’s “Inferno,” believed
to be the center of the Earth, and in this case,
with a female devil. Along comes Copernicus,
and in his famous text — excuse me one second
— “On the Evolution of the Heavenly Spheres,” cracks in this cosmology
began to appear. He challenged, through his
mathematical calculations and observations, the idea
that Earth was at the center. He instead wanted to place
the sun at the center in this new vision of the
world, and he also believed that the human intellect
could know the mind of God. He proposed that the Earth was
actually moving around the sun, not the other way around,
and this is a book here at the Library of Congress. And this new cosmic model
really challenged the long-held intuitive belief that
the cosmos was circling and rotating around the Earth. This event’s been widely
discussed and analyzed, often mythologized
even under the rubric of the Copernican revolution. Thomas Kuhn famously coined
the term “paradigm shift,” which we hear all the
time now, but he was using that to describe the effects
of this sun-centered cosmos on the medieval imagination. And yet, as his book title, “Evolution of the
Heavenly Spheres,” and his image demonstrates, he didn’t actually challenge
the notion of the spheres. This was something that
was still kept very much within the collective
imagination, and it’s often claimed
that he dethroned humanity from the center of the Earth. We kind of confuse
anthropocentrism with geocentrism,
and for many people, it actually had quite
the opposite effect. Galileo famously
said, and I quote, “Earth is not the
dump heap of the filth and dregs of the universe.” That was implied by geocentrism, because even more significant
disruptions were to come, because of Galileo’s telescope, because of Keppler’s
calculations. These new observational
instruments and mathematical calculations
eventually shattered these spheres in the European
imagination, and the celestial orbs —
the heavenly spheres — were gradually transformed
into orbits. And the consequences of
this were quite paradoxical. On the one hand, it
challenged the notion of heaven as a physical place
high above the Earth, and when you hear the kind of
famous Nietzsche quote about “God is dead,” he was actually
referring to this, saying, “Who gave us the sponge
to wipe away the horizon, to get rid of the heavens?” And at the same time, the
abolishing of this distinction between the celestial and
terrestrial realm implied that everywhere was
just like here. As Bruce mentioned, we
now believe the laws of physics govern
the universe equally. So something very deeply
was embedded into modern — the modern — modern
version of science, is that Earth is
mediocre, actually. It’s just like everywhere
else, and this became known as the mediocrity principle. And this quest really
continued throughout science. The desire to understand the
laws of nature were predicated on the idea that the human
intellect could know the mind of God, and we could have
an objective God’s-eye view. And so, science unfolded through
this quest, and the idea was that we could really
separate objective facts from subjective values. And increasingly, because
of Newton and many others, the universe seemed like
a predictable machine. These equations were
extraordinarily powerful. They were describing celestial
mechanics, and it seemed like the universe
was a giant clock. And what we might call the
mechanistic worldview took hold. And as the scientists developed,
they enabled new technologies, with which we’re
deeply familiar, and these advancements
accelerated the process of us mapping the world,
and globalizing the world in many ways over the
past few centuries. And the world that
was once perceived as living increasingly
became mapped and quantified, and a lot of the living
relationships became resources. And so, as colonization
expanded, these resources were to be controlled and exploited,
and as a consequence of this, we began to explore
— oh, excuse me — technical glitches, as always. [Laughter] Oh, Lord. Okay. This is the beautiful
recreation of Earthrise, done by our friends at NASA. That was actually built on data from the lunar reconnaissance
orbiter, and what I wanted to point out in the slides
that were just skipped were that the desire to escape the
planet was really emerging out of a lot of the
disenchantment that started to occur. That because, in many ways,
we expanded to the point where there were no more
frontiers, that we wanted to start to understand how it
is we could get to other realms, to colonize other places. And as the Apollo 8 astronauts
became the first humans to orbit another world, they
found themselves enchanted by the sight of our
cosmic home emerging over the moon’s horizon,
as we see here. And in doing so, they seemingly
actually achieved this long, you know, desired quest
for this God’s-eye view of our place in the universe. The mission commander, Frank
Borman, acknowledged as much. Later on, he was saying that
— at the time, he was saying, “This must be what God sees,”
when they saw the Earth come over that sideways horizon. And the mythological role of Apollo 8 was also
fortified very soon thereafter, actually on Christmas Eve, when the U.S. Information
Agency suggested that they — the crew take turns reading from
the Biblical creation story. And they live-streamed this to
the largest television audience in history on Christmas Eve,
and here’s a quick clip of that.>>In the beginning, God created
the heaven and the Earth, and the Earth were
without form, and void, and darkness was upon
the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved
upon the face of the waters, and God said, “Let
there be light.”>>David McConville: How
many people saw that? I’m curious. Wow. I bet you remember where
you were, obviously. This was a major moment in
a lot of people’s lives, and it also had paradoxical
consequences, because William Anders, who
actually snapped the phot of Earthrise, later claimed that the experience undercut
his religious beliefs. So even the astronauts had
radically different responses to this, and Joseph
Campbell, the mythologist, ended up commenting that he
felt like this was the moment at which the old gods died, and the new ones
hadn’t been born yet. And he basically was
saying the hero’s journey as individuals was
no longer adequate, because we were collectively
engaging in a process together. In other words, these images of
our planetary oasis suspended in a cosmic void can
simultaneously induce a sense of sublime beauty and
existential dread, and the ambivalent responses
to them are a testament to the paradox that
they really represent. These whole-Earth photos both
reveal and reinforce the fallacy of this sort of totalizing
God’s-eye view of our place in the universe. They’re always incomplete —
that when we think of Earth, we often think of these images, but there’s so much
that we don’t see. Though they frequently
induce a sense of wonder, they catalyze planetary
self-reflection. Quite famously, they’re
always partial views, and they fail particularly to
show the extent of the influence that we humans have had
on our planetary home. This is starting to
change, thanks in large part to our new sensory prosthetics, our satellite observation
networks, that we can illuminate
dynamic processes now, much like the quote
that Bruce read. We can see things over time. We can see things beyond
the visible spectrum that we normally have access to, and we can see invisible
relationships. Like in this case, we can
see the dust coming off of the Zehel [assumed spelling]
that’s seeding the rainforest of the Amazon, which is then
creating the water that’s being pumped through the
atmospheric rivers. So this very much is like
a dynamic, living organism that we can begin to perceive, thanks to our new
technological extensions. Because in many ways, the
most significant revelation of the Space Age is
actually that Earth is alive, that this Gaian planet is quite
technically the ecological center of our universe. We have not found
life anywhere else, which was not the expectation at
the beginning of the Space Age. And while it’s tempting
to suggest that the Copernican
revolution has come full circle, I think the implications are
actually far more significant. Our continued existence as a
species depends on our ability to understand, and
stabilize, and synchronize with these cycles of life
at a planetary scale now. So I think it’s, once again, time for us to ask ourselves
how should we be living on a living planet? Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Bruce Clarke: Next, we’ve
got Anne Collins Goodyear. Yeah.>>Anne Collins Goodyear:
Wonderful. Well, I want to start
by thanking each of my fellow panelists,
the Kluge Center, and particularly Bruce
Clarke for the invitation to be here today, and
happy birthday, Bruno. Wonderful.>>Bruce Clarke: Thank you.>>Anne Collins Goodyear:
On December 24th, 1968, William Anders snapped a
photograph, the most celebrated of a series of like pictures that has now become among
the most influential of the Space Age. Although born of an
astronaut, Anders’s impulse to give expression to
something larger than the self through an image might
easily be characterized as an artistic act. And indeed, in describing
the impact of Earthrise, I would like to suggest
that it both reflected and inspired a visual
idiom of emotional response to the moon shot that has
forever colored how we, as products of the Space Age, understand our relationship
to the Earth. While Robert Poole has debunked
the claim that the opportunity on the part of the crew of
Apollo 8 to capture pictures of the Earth was unanticipated,
he acknowledges the awe and sense of surprise reflected
in the astronauts’ comments, as the Earth rose at the
beginning of their first — of their fourth orbit
of the moon. But if Frank Borman,
James Lovell, and William Anders were
stunned by what they saw, I would like to suggest
that it was not because the view
defied the imagination, but rather because it fit so
well with existing paradigms. The same may have been
true for the audience that enthusiastically
embraced the image. Indeed, Anders’ photograph
has striking similarity with Chesley Bonestell’s 1952
illustration for “Colliers” of a rotating space
station, positioned high above the terrestrial surface. The photograph similarly
echoes Robert McCall’s — is this changing? Oh, sorry. Right. Ghost in the
machine — oops, sorry.>>Bruce Clarke: There you go. You had just — you got
it, then went past it.>>Anne Collins Goodyear:
This will work. This will work. You can see it well enough. This is fine. The photograph similarly echoes
Robert McCall’s 1967 poster for Stanley Kubrick’s
“2001, A Space Odyssey,” picturing a space
shuttle rocketing away from a strikingly-similar space
station above Planet Earth. Anders’ photograph, then,
grew out of a long tradition of imagery that prepared the
human imagination to contemplate and execute the extraordinary
achievement of extraterrestrial travel. While the role of popular
literature and illustration in shaping the Space Age has
been previously described by scholars, I would like to
address how NASA’s development of an art program in the
early 1960s provided a forum to stimulate and disseminate
responses to the moon shot that would have lasting
significance. Created in 1963, at the
urging of James Webb, NASA’s second administrator, the NASA Art Program had
among its aims both to capture and share information about a
powerful Cold War initiative, the American space program,
designed to put man on the moon in advance of the Soviet Union. But unlike other
forms of publicity, the art program transformed
the political initiative into a human quest, endowing
pragmatic considerations with historic — one might even
say cosmic — significance. As the administrator noted in
1962, responding to his receipt of a portrait of
Alan Shepard donated by the artist Bruce
Stevenson [assumed spelling] to the space agency. And I quote, “The interpretation of artists can give
unique insight into aspects of our history-making
foray into space, and may make a substantial
contribution to the history of American art.” Webb’s insight was as prescient
as his program, a forerunner of the NEA, NEH, and
present-day artist residencies, was innovative.>>Bruce Clarke: Here, let me.>>Anne Collins Goodyear:
Okay, thanks.>>Bruce Clarke: Okay.>>Anne Collins Goodyear:
“I like what you’re doing with space,” ran the punch line
of a cartoon published in “Art in America” in the
first issue of 1967. If the pun at the heart of
Eldon Dedini’s cartoon prompts laughter, particularly given
the disparate appearance of the two central
characters in the drawing. The quip also has poignancy
because of the commonality between the aspiration of — aspirations of avant-garde
artists and those of the scientist, engineers,
and technologists epitomized in the figure of the astronaut. As Hereward Lester Cooke,
curator of paintings at the National Gallery,
and one of the co-directors of NASA’s art program, observed
in the letter of invitation to artists participating in the
space program — and I quote. “Space travel started in the
imagination of the artist, and it is reasonable that
artists should continue to be the witnesses
and recorders of our efforts in this field. NASA is commissioning
your imagination.” Perhaps not surprisingly, in order to convey the
monumentality of the moon shot, which aimed to make real ancient
visions of celestial travel, many artists turned to the
example of religious imagery. And I might ask to
advance the slide here. Norman Rockwell’s “The Longest
Step, Astronauts Grissom and Young Suiting Up” of 1965
depicting Gemini astronauts John Young and Gus Grissom — we can
advance it again, thank you — — deliberately emulates
the form of a Renaissance altar piece, positioning the computerized
equipment behind the astronauts in a strikingly-cruciform
configuration. The painting appeared
as a double-paged spread in “Look Magazine” on April
20th, 1965, likely appearing on newsstands in time to
coincide with Easter Sunday, which fell on April
18th that year. Eight months later — and
we can advance again — in the midst of the
Christmas season, “Life Magazine” published a
pictorial response to Dante’s “Inferno” by Robert
Rauschenberg, featuring in its midst a
reoccurring pair of astronauts. The accompanying article
explained, “Like Dante and Vergil, they are voyagers
into unearthly realms.” Works such as Mitchell
Jamieson’s “First Steps” — and we can advance
the slide again — and Peter Hurd’s “Pre-Dawn”
similarly reflected the astronaut’s privileged
relationship, physically and spiritually,
with the cosmos. And were among works
included in a 1965 exhibition, “Eyewitness to Space,”
originated here in Washington, D.C. at the National Gallery of
Art, which, aside from a showing of the “Mona Lisa,”
attracted the largest audience in the museum’s history. The use of images, then, to
frame the spiritual import of the space program could
not have been lost upon the well-educated astronauts
of the Apollo 8 program — of the Apollo 8 mission, rather, even if it was not
explicitly acknowledged. Given the use of
religious tropes to convey the significance of
American space exploration, a metaphor not readily available to the country’s
Soviet adversary. It is perhaps not surprising
that a space mission timed for the Christmas season —
we can advance it again — should have brought about a
particularly spiritual response on the part of the crew
of Apollo 8, and indeed, that it should have been
Christmas Eve during which the astronauts first
saw the Earth with new eyes. The crew’s public
reading of Genesis — and thanks for sharing
that with us — that evening further testifies
to their state of mind. But if the astronauts
had brilliantly, if perhaps unwittingly,
created an image that fit within a well-established trope,
the delivery of this image back to a terrestrial audience
similarly changed the terms through which the
technological achievement of space exploration could
itself be understood. Transforming it into something
beautiful, not simply thanks to the images it made possible, but because of the creative
process it manifested. Not insignificantly,
numerous artists responding to the moon launch in the
wake of Apollo 8 would turn to photographs made by
NASA for their inspiration. We can advance it. “Nothing will already
be the same,” observed Robert Rauschenberg
in his 1969 collage, “Stoned Moon Drawing,” published
in the December 1969 issue of “Studio International.” Combining images
of Cape Canaveral and the Apollo 11 moonwalk
with those of the print shop, the artist described parallels between the
intensely-collaborative process required for the
success of the moon shot, and that required
for print-making. In a pithy assessment
of Cape Canaveral, the artist described
it as “a theater where performance is all.” Red Grooms, who attended
the Apollo 15 launch, turned to official
NASA photographs to create an
almost-overwhelmingly large tableau of astronauts
David Scott and James Irwin exploring
the lunar surface with camera and lunar rover. And I should mention that
the standing astronaut is around 12 feet tall. The piece was so big that
it was almost impossible for the Guggenheim to cram
it into its exhibition space, which was, of course,
part of the point. As the artist put it,
“I wanted to do the sort of thing the NASA
people were doing — build something
incomprehensible, and then try to get it off the
ground [laughter].” If Rauschenberg and Grooms
could celebrate the achievement of the lunar landing
by drawing parallels with contemporary art practices
— we can advance again — Michelle Stuart’s 2018
installation, “These Fragments Against Time,” offers
a cautionary coda. Invoking implicitly,
if not explicitly, Anders’ famous photograph,
Stuart’s artwork features images of the 2017 solar eclipse, made aboard a sailboat named
Jupiter 30 miles offshore. Here, Earth appears not as a
blue marble, but as a dark spot, a shadow perhaps
of its former self. Pictured not in the Age of
Aquarius, 50 years past, but instead in that
of the present-day — fossilized shells and animal
bones evoke the dangerous implications of plastics
polluting our waterways, and the industrial emissions
transforming our climate. As Stuart has observed —
we can advance it again — photographs not being
singular in meaning, they assume the identity that
we give them, and the context that we place them in. With its echo of
Earthrise, then, Stuart’s work reframes the
picture’s significance, even as she honors its original,
ecological implications, transforming its
expression of wonder and it’s prompt towards
responsible stewardship into a mournful lament of
regret for an opportunity that we may already have lost. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Bruce Clarke: Want me to –>>Neil M. Maher: I’m
losing faith that, as we move down the line,
the clicker will work, so maybe I could
switch seats with –>>Bruce Clarke: —
you want it — sure.>>Neil M. Maher:
— is that okay? And I’ll move back.>>Bruce Clarke: Okay. Okay.>>Neil M. Maher: Great. Thank you. I want to thank the Kluge Center
for putting on this event, and also for welcoming me back. I was here seven years ago, I
think, when I was doing a lot of the research for
the book that I’m going to be presenting
material from today. So it’s just wonderful
to be back in a whole different capacity. I’m going to begin with a story
about this man right here, Stewart Brand, and the story
takes place in February of 1966, when Stewart Brand is a young
man, put 100 micrograms of LSD on his tongue, went up to
his rooftop in North Beach in San Francisco,
and took in the view. And what he felt when
he was up there looking over the San Francisco skyline
was that he could actually — he believed he could see
the curvature of the Earth, and he believed that
it was an indication that the Earth was
finite, not infinite, and that it was something
we needed to take care of. And he thought, how can
I get people out there — how can I convey this message
to ordinary people who aren’t on a rooftop in San
Francisco tripping [laughter]? And he thought a
color photograph of the Earth would do the trick. If people could see that, then they would think
similarly about the Earth. He said that if they
had that image, the Earth would look
complete, tiny, adrift, and no one would ever
perceive things the same way. The next day, he
came off the rooftop. He went to a local print shop, and printed up a
couple hundred buttons with a very simple question, “Why haven’t we seen
a photograph of the whole Earth yet?” Stewart Brand claims he sent
these buttons to congressmen. He also sent them to
administrators at NASA, and he makes the claims
that those buttons helped to spur a realization that
they needed such a picture, and that Apollo — the
Apollo mission began to take those pictures. So we have Earthrise in 1968,
one year after Brand printed up those buttons, and
then, four years later, we have the famous
Whole Earth image. And it turns out that NASA
officials consciously altered the trajectory of Apollo 17 to
capture that Whole Earth image. And what Stewart Brand
claimed was that these images like this helped to spawn
the environmental movement. Now, when I was doing research
for my book, which is really about how the space race in
the 1960s influenced many of the grassroots political
movements of the ’60s, from civil rights and the
anti-Vietnam War movement, to feminism and the
counterculture, what I realized was that Stewart
Brand’s story just doesn’t add up, for two reasons. First of all, NASA had been
taking similar pictures of the Earth from space prior to
his 1967 event on the rooftop, and secondly, that
the visual culture of the environmental
movement very early on did not include images
of Earth from space. So what I want to do is, I want
to ask a very simple question, and then try to go on in the
rest of my talk to answer it. And that question is, how did
Earthrise and other images like it become environmental
icons? How did they become green? And I want to return
to Stewart Brand. Stewart Brand should’ve
known better, because he knew that there were images
of the Earth from space before Earthrise, and also especially
before Whole Earth. This is an ATS satellite
image from 1967. We saw this in the
earlier presentation. Stewart Brand knew about this
image, and actually used it for the cover of his Whole
Earth catalog in 1968. NASA was aware of these images
as well, and actually went out of its way to promote
them to the American public. They sent them out to newspapers
throughout the country for reprinting. Here’s an image from
“The Washington Post” of that same ATS satellite
image on the front cover, and then “The Spokesman
Review,” which is from Spokane, Washington, uses the same
image, along with photographs of a debutante ball cotillion. NASA sold these images
for a dollar apiece. They were also available
in children’s toys. The Viewmaster 3D viewer — I
have one at home that has some of these images in it, you
know, prior to Earthrise. So the result is that during the
1960s, it was almost impossible for Americans or people
throughout the whole world to avoid images of
Earth from space. So now, I want to talk about
Brand’s second flawed aspect to his story, and that involves
the meaning of these images. The original meaning
of Earthrise was not — from my research,
not as being seen as an environmental
symbol for stewardship. Rather, it had an alternative
meaning that was forged during that Christmas Eve
reading of Genesis that was just talked about. Again, it was Apollo 8. They were orbiting the Earth — the moon in preparation for
the Apollo 11 lunar landing, and they read from the Book of
Genesis while beaming images from space back to Earth. And they had also taken this
image as well that had become — that was published in “The New
York Times,” of all places. And the following day,
after that biblical reading, the Pulitzer Prize-winning
poet, Archibald MacLeish, published “Riders on the Earth,”
an essay in “The New York Times” that described the
image this way. “To see the Earth as it
truly is, small, and blue, and beautiful in that eternal
silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as
riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright
loveliness in the eternal cold, brothers who know they
are truly brothers.” So the original meaning — original meaning
was global unity. It was not environmental
stewardship, and when I went to look for further
evidence of this, I went to the Earth Day
Celebration in 1970, which occurred just less
than two years later. If this was an environmental
image, surely it would be appearing in the Earth Day
Celebration photos, in the Earth Day
Celebration posters, t-shirts, that sort of thing. But it wasn’t there. What I found instead,
after looking at dozens of Earth Day archives, were
mostly images of pollution — dying trees, smog-filled skies,
garbage-strewn landscapes. I did the same research in 1980
for Earth Day, and again, very, very few images of
the Earth from space. And it wasn’t until 1990 when
those images start to show up. Here’s the Earth Day Celebration
in Washington, D.C. in 1990. So the question is, how
did Earthrise become green? And what I argue is that part
of the answer to that has to do with NASA technology,
and specifically, with NASA satellites, and
the capture of global data. In 1971, NASA held its first
conference on the possibilities of satellite assessment,
remote sensing from space. We see here the report from
that conference in 1971, remote measurement of pollution,
and in it, NASA concluded that satellites in space,
if developed properly, could provide essential
data regarding pollution that cannot be obtained
by any other means. NASA did not just
hold conferences. It also responded by
creating technologies that could capture
this global data. In 1978, it launched
its Nimbus 7 satellite, which NASA called its
“pollution patrol satellite,” and it was able to measure
atmospheric pollution globally every six days. And this was the first
truly global data set, and I argue that this
global data is what helped to make Earthrise and
images like it green. And I’ll just provide one
example, and perhaps in the Q&A, we can discuss other
examples as well. From the 1950s through
the 1980s, a British scientific
team located in the Antarctic measured
ozone continuously from the early 1950s
through the 1980s, and they published
their findings in 1985 in “Nature Magazine.” And they published what
they called ozone — an ozone depletion that was
occurring during this time, and this is the graph that was
the centerpiece of their report. When it was published, few beyond the scientific
community took note of this issue. It really went under the radar. NASA scientists, though,
were quite alarmed, because their satellites had
missed this event, this data. So what NASA did is, first,
it recalibrated its satellites to capture this sort of data,
and then it took that data, and instead of depicting
it in an image like this, they instead modeled the data
and overlaid it onto an image like this, which is an image
that is quite reminiscent of the Earthrise and
the Whole Earth image. Here, we see the contour lines where the data has
been smoothed, also the color being added
for specific amounts of ozone, and what we really have is
what had been ozone depletion becoming an ozone hole, and also
a global environmental crisis. And there are other examples,
but what I’m really trying to say here is that —
to answer the question “how did Earthrise
become green?” Well, it was layered with global
data that made those images into representations of
environmental crisis, and this occurred in the ’80s, long after the Earthrise
photo was taken. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Dr. Margaret A. Weitekamp:
I think I will piggyback on Neil’s very good solution. So thank you, again, for the
opportunity to come here, and it’s always fun going last,
because you get to just sit here and listen for the
— most of the event. So in December, I
attended the kickoff event for the 50th anniversary
of the Apollo missions, which we’re celebrating
mostly this year, and the Smithsonian’s
National Air and Space Museum is
taking a leading role in the national celebrations
of this. And this 50th anniversary
of Apollo 8 event called “The Spirit of Apollo” was held at Washington’s National
Cathedral, and it celebrated Apollo
8, and also, especially, the Christmas Eve
broadcast from 1968. And you see here
the lunar window that actually holds
a piece of lunar rock in the center of
that upper circle. When Mission Commander
Jim Lovell spoke, he talked about the
Earthrise image, and he said, “That one photo provided
convincing evidence that many nations
are but one world.” So it’s been said that, by
sending men to the moon, we actually discovered Earth. So given Dr. Clarke’s
charge today to consider the rich cultural
impact of the Earthrise photo, I started thinking about the
ways that, after Earthrise, people started thinking
in different ways about Earth as a planet. So for today’s talk, I thought that what I would do was explore
three different expressive artifacts that convey our
human identity, and were sent on subsequent space missions. So first, this is a duplicate
that’s in the National Air and Space Museum’s
collection of a silicon disk that the Apollo 11 astronauts
actually left on the surface of the moon in July 1969. It’s about the size
of a 50-cent piece. It contains goodwill messages
from 73 different heads of state that were reproduced by a technique they
called ultra-microfiche. It’s etched, then, in a
disk of almost pure silicon, and it’s in an aluminum case. When you look into the history
of this object, the planners for Apollo 11 only
really started thinking about commemorative actions on that mission in
February of 1969. Remember that the landing
is in July of 1969. So — but they set first a
set of goals and parameters for what those kinds of actions
would be, and there were many. And there’s a rich
history there. I’m just going to look at
this one object, but the — two of the first three of
those goals and parameters for what these commemorative
actions could be really emphasized representing
the whole planet. So after the first, of course, which was no activity should
jeopardize crew safety, then they said these should be
actions that are in good taste from a world perspective, and
have an historic, forward-step for all mankind theme. The decision actually to add
these messages from heads of state only came in June. So working in consultation
with the U.S. State Department, NASA sent out 116 requests to
embassies around the world. They got 81 replies, and those
included 73 different messages. The company that actually
produced the disks — and I’ll give their name — Sprig Electric Company of
North Adams, Massachusetts — because they did yeomen’s work, they were only approached
on June 23rd. So ultimately, at the end of
the historic first moonwalk, Buzz Aldrin had a beta cloth
bag, which contained this disk, a small gold olive branch, an
Apollo 1 patch in commemoration of the three astronauts who
had lost their lives in 1967, two medals commemorating
Soviet cosmonauts who had died. And he then basically tossed
that onto the lunar surface as they were on their way
back into the lunar module. For today’s purposes, in
addition to that history, I want to draw your attention
to the header that is physically on the artifact,
“From Planet Earth.” The second artifact I wanted
to draw your attention to is the plaque that was
attached to the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft in 1972. On your left here,
you see an image of the full-scale engineering
model of that spacecraft, which is in the Boeing
Milestones of Flight Hall, just
down the street. The plaque was designed by noted
science popularizer, Carl Sagan, whose papers are here at the Library courtesy
of Seth MacFarland. And he worked with astronomer
and astrophysicist Frank Drake, and you will remember Drake
from the Drake Equation that can be used to
calculate the probability of radio communicative
intelligent life in the universe. The artwork was actually
done by Linda Salzman Sagan, who was Sagan’s wife
at the time. And as they were developing
the Pioneer spacecraft to fly past Jupiter and Saturn,
many of the folks working on this realized that this would
be the first human-built objects that were set on
trajectories that could go out of our solar system,
and then, in fact, would have enough
speed to do just that. In a seminar about astrobiology,
it’s especially fitting to point out that they were really
imbued with an optimism that intelligent life existed, and that this would be
humanity’s first message sent out of the solar system by ours. But they recognized
that they faced a basic communications problem. On this Earth, we don’t all
speak the same language. We don’t all even use
the same alphabet. How do you communicate
without written language? So Sagan, and Drake, and others
had actually started a series of thought experiments were they
would send each other messages in the mails without a
key to see could they come up with a meaningful message
that somebody else who was in on the project could
then decode and come up with what they had meant. And largely, as I understand it,
most of those failed [laughter]. But this simple message about
humanity then simply tried to give an illustration
of who are we. So a man and a woman,
not holding hands — they feared it would look like it might be one
organism [laughter] — set against a kind
of profile there. You can see the curve
of the shape of the spacecraft behind them,
that gives you some sense of scale, and there’s a binary
number to the woman’s — on the right of the image that
gives you some sense of that. And then, next to them
there is actually — that multi-pointed star is a
14-point map to nearby pulsars that locates, in space and
in time, our solar system. And you can see along the
bottom, then, a very — a rudimentary map
that shows with this, our little solar system has,
at the time, nine planets, and that this vehicle had
originated from the third one. The set of two circles in
the top is a hydrogen atom that provides some basic
benchmarking according to the most abundant
element in the universe. So fairly simply message. This is what we look like. This is where we are. Hello. So this is
actually something that then they were
really able to build on when they were putting
this together, and to think about how they would be able
to send a more complex message. And this, then, is what we get
with the Voyager spacecraft, and the artifact that — on
the right, my third example, is the gold cover for the sounds
of Earth phonograph record that were included
on the two Voyager 1 and 2 planetary exploration
probes in 1977. So these were, as
many of you may know, planetary exploration
probes that took advantage of an alignment of
the outer planets, and that were then going to be on even faster trajectories
going out of the solar system. So the piece that you’re
looking at is actually the cover for the phonograph records, and so there’s essentially
two parts now to this more-sophisticated
message. So this, as you see, echoes
some of the same symbols. You’ll recognize the hydrogen
symbol on the bottom right, next to the pulsar map, and this
then comes with an imagery set of instructions on how to
build a phonograph record. They did include a stylus,
so they were not counting on the aliens to
necessarily have a Radio Shack where they could
get the equipment. But the phonograph
records that were inside, protected by these covers, were
a compilation of images, sounds, music that had been
selected by a committee at Cornell headed by Sagan. And it begins with
spoken greetings in 55 different languages,
which, at the time, represented the languages
of 65% of the planet. Now, Annie Druyan, who
later became Sagan’s wife, led the music selection, and
I bring it to your attention in this context as one of the
ways that Earthrise then begins to get people thinking
about us as a planet. Because in many ways,
this record is really one of the early examples of world
music, of trying to represent — and she worked actively
with musicologists to select not only
western classical music — Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto
is included, but also Navajo, Chinese music, folk
music from Benin in West Africa, an Indian Raga. Famously, they included
“Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry as an example of modern music, and she thought really the
sounds of the modern world. But they even included
whale song, which had only recently
been recorded. So start thinking about
our planet perhaps as not only human-centered. Sagan famously called the
record on the Voyager spacecraft “a bottle thrown in
the cosmic ocean,” and I think it’s a
fascinating conception. And if you go online, you can
really dig into this record as a conception of Earth
as a planet of motion, of images, and of sound. So as I was looking at
these three artifacts, I was thinking it would
be really nice to kind of carry this forward
to the present. Apollo 8’s Earthrise starts a
trend that continues unabated, and actually, the more I looked
into it, the more I realized that these artifacts, in some
ways, represent a real moment in time, and a somewhat
rare effort. There are many things that
are included on spacecraft, and they’re often done to
attract public attention or support, but not necessarily
past the three I’ve talked about as thoughtful or meaningful messages
about who we are. For instance, on the left
here, the Mars Phoenix lander from 2008 pictured
on our left — and you can see that it has
a CD that has been added to the front — is more
of a time capsule of sorts for future us, for
future Martian explorers. So it includes the name of — the names of 250,000 people who
sent their names in to be sent to Mars, and it also includes,
then, a library that they called “Visions of Mars,”
science fiction stories and art inspired
by the red planet. So the Planetary Society has
encouraged public interest in space exploration
with a number of these kinds of projects. So the gentlemen
here on the right of the image are holding
a disk of names, again, provided by the Planetary
Society, that was going to be — whoops — attached —
giving my next piece away — to the Cassini-Huygens probe. So since 1996, according to the
Planetary Society’s website, the full list of active
Planetary Society members — and this then becomes a bit
of a membership incentive — has been flown on 19
different spacecraft. So they’ve been to Earth orbit,
the moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Pluto, three asteroids,
two comets, and out of the solar system. So in some ways, as I
was looking for artifacts that went a little bit
more toward the present, what I find is a deeply human
desire to attach our names to things, but not
necessarily those kinds of well-thought-out global
visions of who we are. And I’m going to suggest
that one of the places where people have done
that is in science fiction. So for instance, to offer
just one example, “Star Trek, The Next Generation” had an
episode, one of its best, in 1992 called “The
Inner Light.” This Hugo Award-winning episode, in which Captain Jean-Luc
Picard, here on our left, played by Patrick Stewart, gets
knocked out by the alien probe that we see on the view screen. And while he’s unconscious,
he lives a life of 40 years in his mind as Kamin
on the Planet Kataan. So the story then
revolves around the idea of this planetary probe, created by a civilization that’s
preserving the memory of its culture by
imbuing some recipient with the lived experience
of being on their planet. I’d be interested in
the question and answer if people had other examples of
science fiction really thinking about ways to preserve a
culture in and above their kind of compilation of a library. But to bring us up
to the present, I’ll end with two examples which
are of actually different parts of the same thing, and
variations on today’s theme. So when Elon Musk’s Space-X
tested their Falcon Heavy Rocket, in a wonderful
display of showmanship, he decided if they needed
to launch a payload, they might as well launch
a cherry-red Tesla Roadster with a spaceman in
the seat into — to Mars, and then into
eventually solar orbit. And what most people
don’t know is, included in the glove
compartment was a digital library that included a silicon
disk, in some ways an echo of what was on the
moon with Apollo 11, and this one featured Isaac
Asimov’s “Foundation Series.” So this is a creation
of a nonprofit that is called The Arch
Mission Foundation, headed by a gentleman named Nova
Spivack, and they are interested in creating multiple redundant
repositories of human knowledge around the solar
system and on the Earth. Now, this is less of an
optimistic vision of a gesture to E.T. about who we
are, and more of a hedge against the next
extinction-level event, and the idea that whoever — you know, as we have come after
the dinosaurs, whoever comes after us will find this
repository of our knowledge. But he’s working on the
idea of sending those around the solar system
and into the Earth. And so, they also provided
one with a lunar library, a very different library,
for the Beresheet, which was an Israeli company’s
lunar lander that went to the moon, and unfortunately, crashed on the lunar
surface just less than two weeks ago,
on April 11th. I had been hoping to end with
a nice celebratory moment, as I’m sure, had they. But the Beresheet, which means
Genesis, or in the beginning, carried a different
kind of these libraries that was not only about
universal humanity, but also particularly then
fronting Israeli identity. So their time capsule,
which was 30 million pages, included a full copy of the
English language Wikipedia, as well as of the Torah,
memoirs of a Holocaust survivor, the Israeli national anthem, and a copy of the Israeli
Declaration of Independence. And I had been particularly
looking forward to including this, because I
think that this Earth selfie that the Beresheet took of
itself en route to the moon in many ways deliberately
evoked that Earthrise image, where we began, and
where I will end. So I would argue that the
Earthrise image is not solely responsible for the Space
Age change in mindset that allowed us to think
of ourselves as a world, but as a part of the rich,
cultural impact of Earthrise. That striking image of our
blue and white planet hanging in space has been an ability
to think about ourselves as a planet, and to
begin to craft a message about who we are, and to
send that out into the void. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Bruce Clarke: I think we –>>Dr. Margaret A. Weitekamp: You want us to reset,
or we good?>>Bruce Clarke: —
we’re — no, we’re good.>>Dr. Margaret A.
Weitekamp: Okay.>>Bruce Clarke: I think
we’re good where we are. I want to thank my
brilliant and erudite panel for these wonderful
presentations. I think that, given the — where we are in the flow of the
program, we should just open it up to audience comment
and question. So –>>One of the — I
guess it was Voyager — did that famous photo
of the Earth with, like, four planets aligned
in the image. I’m getting blank expressions
from everybody, so that’s –>>Dr. Margaret A. Weitekamp:
There’s a pale blue dot image –>>– yeah.>>Dr. Margaret A. Weitekamp: — which is from the
great distance, and then there have
been compilation images where they’ve tried
to line things up –>>Is that becoming — do you
think that will become the focus of future, you know,
seminars and stuff? Is that an important photo, or
is that just kind of a fluke?>>Dr. Margaret A. Weitekamp: — I think it’s a very
important photo. It’s one that Sagan in
particular talked about and captured in “Cosmos,”
the television series that he did in the early 1980s. And there’s a similar image
from the New Horizon spacecraft that really — the Earth is
almost just a pixel when you try to recapture and redirect
back towards Earth from that great distance,
going all the way out to Pluto and
the Kuiper belt. So I think it is important. It’s a little more dwarfing
of our sense of ourselves as the center of the universe
to see ourselves even tinier than appears in the
Earthrise image.>>Bruce Clarke: Yes, please.>>So those of us who remember
this probably may have assumed that we’d be at the moon much
more often than we are now, and the Chinese have
recently sought out to land on the dark side, and got
some publicity for that. So are any of you disappointed
that we haven’t spent more time on the moon, or do you think that we did it just the way
we had written the script?>>Neil M. Maher: I could
respond to that, I think. I think it’s less about me
being disappointed or not, and as a historian, thinking
more about how people in the past might’ve been
either pleased or disappointed. And I think what’s
interesting is, we think back on the space race as something
that really unified our country. We think of it as an extremely
positive moment, and it was, on one level — a million people
flocking down to Cape Canaveral to witness the Apollo 11 launch. But what we forget is
that, three weeks later, half a million young people
hitchhiked, and ended up walking in traffic to Woodstock,
New York to listen to a music festival that was — had music that was quite
critical of the country, especially when it
came to Vietnam. So the country was extremely
divided during that period, and I think that
we have to remember that when we think
about the space race. There were civil rights
activists who were very upset with what was going on. Feminists were upset with
the all-male astronaut corps. Environmentalists were worried
that all this money being spent on space was taking our eye off,
you know, pollution back home. But I think it’s important
that these two sides of this cultural divide were, in
a sense, reliant on each other. It’s sort of what made
that moment so important in our history, and it was
also really about a debate over what our country
was going to be. Was it going to be about one
or the other, or was it going to be a dialogue where
we come together and try to formulate a compromise
over spending money to explore outer space? Which I think many people
felt was really important, but also dealing with
problems back at home, which was very important. It’s that debate, I think,
that is important to remember.>>Anne Collins Goodyear: I
might offer some thoughts, too. I think that’s — these
are such important points, to sort of think about what was
the larger political context in which the moon
landing happened. And of course, in addition to
so much social unrest at home, we had the Vietnam War. That was unfolding, and as far
as the art world is concerned, a big thing that began to
happen is this celebration of technology that was very
much on the minds of a lot of influential avant-garde
artists at the end of the ’60s. Really fell apart when
the equation became made between technology and warfare,
and the observation that a lot of aerospace companies, who
were active in the space race, were also manufacturing napalm, in addition to bombers,
and so forth. So at least where the art world
is concerned, technology sort of became a poisoned apple
of sorts in the early 1970s, and I think there was
certainly a falloff of optimism on the part of artists
responding to the Space Age. But it is extremely interesting
to me that there are a number of exhibitions happening
now, and that will happen in the immediate future,
including, I just learned today, one at the National
Gallery of Art, I believe this coming summer, of
photographs that are reflecting on the Space Age, and
on the lunar landing. And it’s really interesting
that about a year or so ago, a Japanese tycoon
was able to make — sort of purchase a bunch
of tickets, if you will, for artists to be
part of, I think, one of the first
civilian space shots ever. And I think it’s
incredibly interesting that an art collector had
his imagination stimulated to such a degree
that he is going to send artists into
outer space. And I have to admit I was really
wondering as I was working on the remarks today —
what types of photographs or other artworks
might result from that? And I mention this because,
while I think the imaginative, symbolic environment
in which Apollo played out in the early 1970s led — I think that was one
of the factors that led to the dissolution
of the program to do further moon landings. Of course, we did have the Space
Station, which was important. I think that there is a
reigniting of the imagination around space travel, and I think
it will be really interesting to see whether that does
not come to be a precursor for new developments to come.>>Dr. Margaret A. Weitekamp:
I would add that I think that there was an expectation
of pace of change that was set in the 20th century, perhaps, that may not have been
entirely realistic. When you think about the very
first powered flight ever by the Wright Brothers
was in 1903, and by 1969, you have human beings
standing on the moon. The idea by the year 2000, which
sounded impossibly futuristic, was that clearly, you know,
we will have moon bases. We’re going to be
going out to Mars. Hop, skip, jump, boom. And I think that, in reality,
things have been both longer to develop, but also have
developed in different ways. You know, so we think about — the International Space
Station has six human beings on it right now who — and that
station has been continually occupied since the year 2000. So you have a steady presence
of humanity living and working in space — not the same humans
for the whole time, but — and increasingly
longer duration. They’ve just announced
that Christina Koch, who’s up there now, is going
to do another long-term flight, going to extend her
mission as a way of gathering more information,
so that we can start to think about longer flights
going into the future. So I think that the pace
of change that was set in the 20th century may
not have been achievable, and it may have gone in
slightly different directions than what was pictured
in, say, “Life Magazine” or other places at the time. Can you use the mike so that
we can have it recorded?>>Bruce Clarke: We’ll come back.>>I wanted to comment
on the initial comment about Earthrise being
an invention, and all of you have expressed
different ways, very eloquently, in which it is an invention. But there’s something
unacknowledged here, or sort of implicit, and that
is that the Earthrise image is, in some ways, accidental,
serendipitous, or contingent. Had the spacecraft been
oriented slightly differently, had the crew been
asleep at that moment, we would not have this image,
and we would not be talking about all these layers
of meaning. And I think that’s important
to acknowledge, too — the contingent nature of it, and the elaborate
invention of it thereafter.>>Bruce Clarke: Oh,
I agree completely. The — my point was,
it was invented as much as it was discovered, but the
entire story is so wonderful in that they hadn’t planned
to take pictures of the Earth. The actual sort of preparations
had all been focused on the moon, and the
program of photography of the moon while
they were orbiting it. And so, it very much was this
serendipitous moment that, as you say, just depended on
the capsule, the lunar orbiter that they were in
tilting the right way, so that all of a
sudden, Earth appeared. But — so what I like to think
about this image, which is — I mean, we still
call it Earthrise, but the Earth is not
rising here so much — so much as it’s just appearing. And if you dwell on this
image, what you kind of — at least I can, in my mind —
recapture a sense of hovering. In other words, the freedom from
gravity that the orbit, that — the guys were in free space, and
they’re just kind of hovering over a planetary surface,
and encountering that aspect of the extraterrestrial
experience. So it’s a — but I’d
finally say it’s — the image was happily
discovered serendipitously, beautifully taken with — they had practiced using
really high-quality cameras, so this wasn’t actually beamed
at the time as a transmission. It was brought back to
Earth and developed, and we had this beautiful,
high-resolution image. But — please.>>Hear they’re surprised — you
hear their surprise, and it’s, oh, my God, look at this. Give me the camera. Quick, give me the color camera.>>Bruce Clarke: Right.>>You know, they are scrambling
to get the image before it fades from view, and so it truly
was a surprise to them.>>Bruce Clarke: So in the room
with the exhibit, there’s — on the screen, there is a NASA
animation of the Earthrise event that plays that tape, and
shows just from second to second how everything
had to kind of tilt just in the right direction
for the photograph to even become possible. And so, then, you know, that —
we then give it a 90-degree spin to put it in terms of our gravitational orientation
is perfectly, you know, justified, and yet,
if we understand that, we can kind of hold both ideas. So it’s that we understand
what orientation means by allowing our self to hover
for a second without it, and experience the vertigo
that might come from that, and how we — so
we need to turn it, to frame it for our own
desire for orientation. I would just — if I could —
on this comment — to me — and this kind of echoes the
point I took David to be making, that — but Margaret A.s well. We discovered ourselves,
but we discovered the Earth. This photograph resonates. It continues to have this
powerful — at least for me, this magnetic intensity
of inspirational charge, because it really — it’s
what we still need to see, having invested all
those resources in making the Apollo
missions happen. We need to see our existence
as a planetary phenomenon.>>Neil M. Maher: Can I –>>Bruce Clarke: Yeah, jump in.>>Neil M. Maher: — can I
just jump in, and then –>>Anne Collins Goodyear:
Oh, yeah, please.>>Neil M. Maher: — we’ve
been talking about Earthrise, and we keep mentioning the
Earth, the Earth, the Earth, but what we’re forgetting is
that the moon is in it also. And I think that we
have to think about that as both a looking back at the
Earth, but also as, in a sense, an advertisement, right? We got there. We got to the moon first. We’re orbiting the moon, when
no one else has done that. Part of the reason they
didn’t crop the moon out was because they wanted the world to
know that we were right there. So I think there’s a lot of
ways to read these images that are really,
really interesting.>>Anne Collins Goodyear:
You know, it’s interesting — I am currently co-director
of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, so I am on the campus of a liberal arts
institution, wonderful college. And I would have to
say, as I’m listening to this conversation unfold,
I can’t help but observe that I really take this to
be a great humanities moment. It’s very interesting to
me that, in some ways, the space program, we might
say, represents the culmination of what’s possible with
a sort of, quote unquote, “STEM mentality,” science,
technology, engineering, math. But what I find really
interesting as an art historian is that I think it’s really the
symbolic envelope that we put around this photograph that
has made it so meaningful. And that, I find
extremely interesting. There actually were some similar
photographs that had been taken by a Soviet spaceship before
this photograph was released, but I think it’s really
this overlay of the reading of Genesis, this connection
to a cultural concept that this is a spiritual moment. I think, Valerie [assumed
spelling], your point about — and Bruce’s point
about the rotation of this image is
really powerful. The name Earthrise
comes to be given to it after it is published,
but I can’t help but think about Peter Hurd’s
image from 1963, which I showed, called
“Predawn.” I mean, Hurd, through his
painting, is already putting out the idea that it’s — I mean, predawn literally
in the sense that he’s there before the sun
comes up at Cape Canaveral, but symbolically,
predawn in that we haven’t yet completed this mission
from President Kennedy. And in a sense, this is the
moment where dawn is happening. The Earth is rising. So I do think it’s really
interesting to think about NASA’s success in —
through the art program, and through other techniques,
of putting a symbolic structure which comes out of
literature and art. Really quintessentially
humanities disciplines that enable us to
attach a meaning to this, even though we might debate the
different meanings that accrue, and I think that’s a very,
very important point. But it really is this
interconnection between art, literature, and science that
makes this moment possible.>>Bruce Clarke: Hear, hear. Time for one more. Oh, my gosh, yes. Yes. You got [laughter].>>Fabulous. Thank you so much. I — so all my friends, when
they talk about outer space, they talk about the space
program, but they also talk about Space-X and
Virgin Galactic, and sort of these celebrity,
commercial spaceflight entities. And I’m wondering if you
guys have thoughts on — if Earthrise, as a photograph,
was taken by a private company, like, say, Virgin
Galactic, do you think that it would read the same way? Because after the Falcon
Heavy launch, and Tesla’s sort of infamous roadster photo,
I think that that was couched in a few layers of commercialism
that sort of the people who kind of swim in my circles didn’t
really sort of celebrate, I think, in the same language
that Earthrise typically does. As sort of being kind of
emblematic of sort of humanity, and sort of seeing the Earth
from this kind of objective sort of third vantage point. And so I was wondering if you guys had general
thoughts on that.>>David McConville: I
would love to speak to that. Particularly from a historical
perspective, because a lot of the vision and the will to
engage in the space program in the 1950s was because of Walt
Disney, that he created a series with Wernher Von Braun,
who had been brought over from the Third Reich to oversee the American
space program. And they created this show
on ABC called “Man in Space,” and so it was inherently
a commercial endeavor from the very beginning, in
terms of thinking about how to catalyze the imagination. So it’s always been
kind of intertwined, and I know it’s not exactly
what you’re kind of pointing to with regards to the privatization
of space right now. But there’s always been a
very close relationship, and I think particularly
in terms of thinking about how those images
are absorbed, people in the ’50s
weren’t quite as, you know, sensitive to thinking about how
those images were being used to promote a particular
commercial agenda. But I really encourage you,
if you haven’t seen them, to go on YouTube and
watch these clips, or they have the
entire shows online. Because it’s really remarkable
to give us an indication of where we thought things
would be by a certain time, because it was almost
unthinkable that we would go to Mars, and we wouldn’t find
life, and rivers, and kind of — I think Walt Disney calls them
lowly forms of plant life was, like, the worst that
was going to happen. And so, our understanding and
our expectations have been so radically reset in terms of
why we’re even doing any of this that it’s interesting now
to think about the role that entertainment is still
playing, and that, you know, commercial entertainment in
particular is still playing in shaping our collective
imaginary. And I’m not sure — I mean, because it was a
private endeavor that — from Israel that shot
that same image, right? And I don’t hear many critiques
of that — I mean, I — it’s more about because
it crashed, and I think –>>Dr. Margaret A. Weitekamp: And it was quasi-government
private, which gets into some of the conversations about, you
know, Space-X, or Blue Origin, or these companies that are
then doing this work for NASA. But I think there’s also
something very interesting in the connection to those
Disney visions to remember — they could picture going
back and forth into space, and doing all of these things. They couldn’t picture a
computer smaller than a room. They couldn’t picture a way
to bring photographs back, other than physically
carrying the film. And so, I would — we might
end out with a little shout-out to the planetary science
community that’s doing amazing work at great remoteness
with wonderful fidelity, in terms of the images
that are coming back, and that we have
actually explored through our entire solar
system at this point without necessarily
having to send the people. So some of the “why haven’t the
people been back on the moon” is because so much work has
been done in other places, and we have the privilege at the
museum of having a department — the Center for Earth
and Planetary Studies — who are talking about
those places — Mars, Mercury — as places. They know them. They know their geography. They talk about them as
if they’re standing there, because they’ve got these
wonderful mapping images that they’re looking at
coming back in great — you know, and really
then having arguments about exactly what kind of alluvial flow might have
created that formation. So the exploratory work that’s
been done has these wonderful roots, and then has gone in
these surprising new directions.>>Bruce Clarke: Neil?>>Neil M. Maher: Yeah,
I think there’s no doubt that Disney was involved early. You know, private, free-market
contractors were involved early in the Apollo mission,
all the NASA missions, but I do think there’s
a difference in this free-market moment. In the 1960s, if NASA was
doing something in the program that people didn’t agree with,
they could take to the streets, go on their soapbox, and
protest or demonstrate. Civil rights activists did it. Feminists did it. Anti-war students did
it, who were concerned with NASA’s technology being
used in the Vietnam War. And because NASA was funded
publicly, NASA had to adjust, and was very nimble
at adjusting in ways that encouraged public
support of the program. I think in the moment we’re in
now, this free-market moment, it’s a bit different, that
we can’t take the streets and protest against
these corporations. We can, but they can ignore
us, I guess is what I’m saying. And I think that if
they took an image, like the Whole Earth
image, I think we would see that as a corporate brand,
whereas in the 1960s, we saw that as sort of coming
from the grassroots perhaps, coming from the federal
government, coming from us as a culture. So I think there is a shift. I think that there’s no
doubt that efficiencies, and financial efficiencies, and even technological
efficiencies have been improved by the free market. But I think we do lose
a bit of that connection into civic culture in a way that
might be a bit of a concern.>>Anne Collins Goodyear:
And just sort of riffing off of Neil’s point about the
market, and culture — I think another really
important practical dimension of these photographs is
they’re not copyrighted. And, you know, I think as we
think about our digital culture, and the fact that
so many people — the Digital Copyright
Millennium Act, et cetera — seek to put so many limitations on our ability to
share information. It’s maybe nice to be
reminded of the power of sharing information,
and maybe also to acknowledge the fact that
the U.S. government does not copyright anything that it does. So these images were free and
open to be used by anyone, and I’m sure that is one of
the reasons that they have had such significant cultural power
over time, among many others.>>Bruce Clarke: We own
the copyright, right, as — our tax dollars brought this
photograph back [laughter]. Could I leave us with — assert my prerogative as the
organizer of this session? So you remember the movie
“Contact” with Jodie Foster? Now, we learned that,
in the end, it’s actually this corporate
guy who’s actually allowing this mission to go forward, but
nonetheless, Jodie Foster gets in the contraption, and
seems to have this experience when she goes through
the wormhole to — you know, whether it’s
real or not, who knows? But as she’s dropping through
the wormhole, there’s these — just these couple of seconds
where there’s a pause, and she kind of somehow
or another gets to view beyond the
capsule she’s in, and she sees these
alien civilizations, just for a moment. And — but — and
then, at a certain — I think at a certain point,
she sees their star system, or their galaxy, and tears
start falling from her eyes, and she says, “They
should’ve sent a poet. They should’ve sent
a poet [laughter].” And it just zips by,
but somehow or another, we had some photo poetic
astronauts that just were in the right place at the
right time, and we got — I think we got a good
return on our investment. Thank you, everybody. [ Applause ]

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *