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The Sciences

A Moon With a View

Cosmic VarianceBy Julianne DalcantonDecember 14, 2012 2:34 AM


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This weekend the Seattle Times published a lovely interview with Bill Anders, one of the Apollo astronauts. The article is full of interesting little tidbits, but I was most taken with his description of taking photos while his capsule orbited the moon:

While he had been meticulously trained to photograph the moon, making pretty pictures of the Earth from space had not occurred to anyone at NASA. So Anders, with no light meter and really no idea where to start, improvised. "I had to bracket (the exposure)," he says. "I'm just going click-click-click-click-click, just changing that f-stop up and back. I machine-gunned that mother."

The resulting picture was one of the most famous from the Apollo program -- the classic NASA "Earthshine" photo. Which, the article reveals, has actually been "printed backwards for more than 40 years because of a NASA mistake". There is also the always jaw dropping glimpse into the mindset of the first generation of astronauts:

"I figured there were three possibilities, about equally weighted," Anders says with the sort of casual tone most people would use to describe a choice of sandwich meat. "One, we could go and have a successful mission — one-third chance — which is what happened. Or, we could go, survive and not have a successful mission — that's Apollo 13. Or, we could go and we wouldn't come back; splat somewhere." Anders' assessment: "Pretty good odds."

There are many more gems in the article, so definitely worth a read.

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