Astronauts describe the view of home planet for Earth Day
When astronauts return from space, what they talk about isn't the brute force of the rocket launch or the exhilaration of zero gravity. It's the view.And it's mankind's rarest view of all, Earth from afar.Only two dozen men — those who journeyed to the moon — have seen the full Earth view. Most space travelers, in low orbit, see only a piece of the planet — a lesser but still impressive glimpse. They have seen the curvature of Earth, its magnificent beauty, its fragility, and its lack of borders.The first full view of Earth came from the moon-bound Apollo 8 during the waning days of a chaotic 1968. Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders put it in perspective in a documentary: "We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth."Some of the photos Anders took were used on posters and pins on the first Earth Day in 1970. They've been "an environmental staple of Earth Days ever since," said Denis Hayes, the first Earth Day coordinator.For Earth Day this year, The Associated Press asked space travelers to recall what it's like to see Earth from above:"It was the only color we could see in the universe. ... We're living on a tiny little dust mote in left field on a rather insignificant galaxy. And basically this is it for humans. It strikes me that it's a shame that we're squabbling over oil and borders."— Bill Anders, Apollo 8, whose photos of Earth became famous."If people can see Earth from up here, see it without those borders, see it without any differences in race or religion, they would have a completely different perspective. Because when you see it from that angle, you cannot think of your home or your country. All you can see is one Earth."Anousheh Ansari, Iranian-American space tourist who flew last year to the international space station."Earth has gone through great transitions and volcanic impacts and all sorts of traumatic things. But it has survived ... I'm not referring to human conflicts. I'm referring to the physical appearance of the Earth at a great distance. That it generally is mostly very peaceful (when) looked at from a distance."