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Earthrise and the First Earth Day, 50 Years Later

The Earthrise photograph. Credit: NASA

The first Earth Day was celebrated 50 years ago, on April 22, 1970. On that day, millions of Americans participated in demonstrations and clean-up projects, calling for a new approach to protecting the environment. It was meant to be a teaching moment regarding the importance of our role as caretakers of the environment. It continues to serve that function to this day.

In 2019, the Kluge Center and Bruce Clarke hosted an event looking at the legacy of the Earthrise photograph, taken on Christmas Eve 1968, and its relation to Earth Day and the environmental movement. The photo was considered the first to be taken of the whole Earth, and the image of the Earth against the stars was frequently used by environmentalists to highlight the beauty and fragility of the planet.

Bruce Clarke was the 2019 Baruch S. Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology and is Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Literature and Science in the Department of English at Texas Tech University.

Dr. Clarke hosted a panel discussion featuring David McConville, Board Chair at the Buckminster Fuller Institute and the Creative Director of the Worldviews Network, Anne Collins Goodyear, Co-Director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Margaret A. Weitekamp, curator at the Space History Department of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and Neil Maher, Associate Professor in the Federated History Department at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, Newark.

Participants held a wide-ranging discussion touching on the history of Earthrise and of the environmental movement, as well as the subject of artistic depictions of scientific activity more broadly.

Watch: A Celebration of Earthrise

The Earth, blue and luminous, seems to rise above the moon’s surface against the vast blackness of space in the now-iconic photo “Earthrise.” Taken on December 24, 1968, aboard Apollo 8 — the first crewed spacecraft to orbit the moon — the image almost immediately captured the world’s imagination. Since then, it has been credited […]

Reflecting on Earthrise

Bruce Clarke is the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, as well as Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Literature and Science at Texas Tech University. On April 23, Clarke will host a discussion titled Earthrise: Celebrating the Photograph that Changed (How We View) the World at 4pm in room LJ-119 at the […]

Life as it Could Be: A Conversation with Luis Campos

Fourth Astrobiology Chair Luis Campos began his tenure at the Kluge Center on October 3. A historian of science, his most recent book is “Radium and the Secret of Life” (University of Chicago Press, 2015). He will spend his fellowship year at the Kluge Center studying the history of synthetic biology and its overlap with astrobiology […]

Theories on the Origins of the Life: An Interview with Astrobiology Chair Nathaniel Comfort

In March, Astrobiology Chair Nathaniel Comfort interviewed four pioneering scientists about their roles in developing key models for the origins of life. The program titled “The Origins of the RNA World,” was part of Comfort’s year-long residency at the Kluge Center working on a book project about the genomic revolution’s impact on origins of life […]

Written at the Kluge Center: “The Impact of Discovering Life Beyond Earth”

In a new series, we profile books, articles and other publications written by scholars-in-residence at The John W. Kluge Center and researched using the Library of Congress collections. Jason Steinhauer begins with the newly published “The Impact of Discovering Life Beyond Earth,” edited by 2013-14 Astrobiology Chair Steven Dick. Extraterrestrial life has not been discovered, […]

Expanding the Astrobiology Conversation

This year’s Blumberg Dialogues on Astrobiology expanded the conversations around astrobiology to include philosophers, historians, religion scholars, literature scholars, communications scholars and professors of English and theater, in addition to scientists. The videos of these public dialogues are now available on our website and YouTube; the dialogues were part of the Kluge Center’s Baruch S. […]

Rethinking Life on Earth and Beyond: Astrobiology and the Role of Paradigm Shifts in Science and Human Self-Understanding

Scientific discoveries have always had the potential to be contentious, and this has been especially true in phases of transition, when new areas of knowledge have been glimpsed but not yet fully explored, classified, or agreed upon. It is during these transitions that thick debates often ensue. Discoveries can sometimes be threatening because new evidence […]