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Iconic photos of Earth taken by Apollo astronauts, digitally restored and in full glory

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Earthrise, Apollo 8. Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.

In the late 1960s, humans caught the first good glimpse of our home planet from afar, thanks to the Apollo missions to the moon. During the first crewed voyage around the moon on Christmas Eve 1968, Bill Anders of the Apollo 8 mission took our planet’s most famous photo as his spacecraft rounded the dark side of the moon for the fourth time.

The picture, now known as Earthrise, is the first to show Earth rising above the moon’s barren and desolate landscape in perfect opposition to the vulnerable but life-teeming blue marble above.

The Blue Marble, Apollo 17. Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.

Another famous of Earth from way far away in outer space is Blue Marble, which shows our planet as seen by Apollo 17 astronauts in December 1972 about 30,000 kilometers into their journey towards the moon. A perfect combination of distance and timing allowed the astronauts to catch one of the few pictures showing an almost fully illuminated Earth, which from that far away resembles a spherical agate marble.

Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.
Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.

Alas, the photography gear available during the Apollo era didn’t do these sights enough justice. Toby Ord, a senior research fellow in philosophy at Oxford University in the UK, must have thought the same when he embarked on the Earth Restored project.

Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.
Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.

Earth Restored features a selection of photos captured on film that show the full Earth from space. These were taken with professional cameras specifically designed for the Apollo missions such as the Hasselblad 500EL with Zeiss Sonnar and Planar lenses. But although these photos are of good quality for the 1960s and 1970s, they nevertheless exhibit certain flaws in exposure and color casts.

For this series, Ord set out to do some cleanup work, adjusting white balances and black points, as well as dust and scratches on the camera lens, all while still preserving the look and feel of the original photos captured on film.

Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.
Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.

These pictures serve as a stark reminder that the world and all life are fragile. Ord is the founder of Giving What We Can, a movement that has so far pledged over $1.5 billion to the most effective charities across the world. He also recently published a new book called The Precipe, which concludes that “safeguarding our future is among the most pressing and neglected issues we face.”

Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.
Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.
Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.
Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.
Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.
Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.
Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.
Credit: NASA / Toby Ord.

For high-resolution images, visit Ord’s website.

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