When I was a kid, many of us had NASA space photography posters in our rooms. Astronauts were cool and we were the leading nation for space exploration. So much has changed for successive generations. Viewers can recapture a taste of the idealism and optimism we have lost in Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee’s short documentary Earthrise, which screens during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.
The three-man crew of Apollo 8 make it clear nobody had given any prior thought to taking photos of the Earth from space. When designated camera man Bob Anders had time, he was supposed to focus on the Moon, especially while passing behind the dark side. Of course, their plans changed when they started to take in the stunning sight of our blue planet. Yet, it was the sight of the Earth rising above the Moon’s horizon as they emerged from the Moon’s shadow that would become one of NASA’s most defining and iconic images.
Earthrise is one of the mot poetic space docs ever produced, which makes it distinctive and cool. However, the film’s greatest merit is perhaps its poignant reminder of just how triumphant the now somewhat hazily remembered Apollo 8 mission was at the time. They were the first to leave Earth’s orbit and fully orbit the Moon—arguably the single biggest leap forward before the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
Vaughan-Lee includes long, thoughtful reflections from all three crew-members, Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders, which also makes Earthrise a pretty significant film document. Their perspective is both humanistic and galactic.
Unfortunately, the film brings us back down to Earth when it accurately points out only twenty-four astronauts have experienced this spectacular Earthrise view. Vaughan-Lee leaves unsaid the cold hard truth that we currently do not have the capacity send manned spaceflights back to Moon or anywhere else beyond our atmosphere, but we will spell it out, because it needs to be emphasized. Regardless, Earthrise is a very well put together film that engages on emotional and cerebral levels. Very highly recommended, it screens again this afternoon (4/28) as part of the Home Sweet Home documentary shorts block, at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.