This photo showed us how precious and vulnerable life on this planet is.
Shot by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders on Christmas Eve, 1968, it wasn't the first view of "the whole earth" from space, but it was by far the most powerful. The reason had to do with a trendy word these days -- "framing." By showing the Earth, lonely and fragile against the all too lifeless expanse of the moon, the picture memorably portrayed the vulnerability of "Spaceship Earth." It was a profoundly moving and spiritual moment.
NEIL de GRASSE TYSON, Hayden Planetarium, NYC: It was the first real occasion where people saw earth, not as you see it on the globe you buy in the map store, with political boundaries color coded. All it was, was oceans and continents and clouds. And it was at that moment that people started calling our planet, "Space Ship Earth", because we're all in together, moving through space.Apparently not everyone got the message.
STEWART BRAND, Founder, Whole Earth Catalogue: The planet seeing itself from the outside was a major self-realization of its existence as a planet, as a beautiful thing, as a kind of fragile appearing thing. It is clearly alive. Photographs with the moon in the foreground emotionally dramatize the difference between a dead planet and a living planet. It's not hard to imagine, well, you know, a living planet can become a dead planet unless steps are taken.
NASA has reportedly eliminated the promise "to understand and protect our home planet" from its mission statement. That statement was repeatedly cited last winter by NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who said he was being threatened by political appointees for speaking about the dangers posed by greenhouse gas emissions.That figures. Why would George Bush want to "understand and protect our home planet"? After all, as governor of Texas he waged war on that state's environment while pretending to protect it. As president he rejected the Kyoto Treaty on global warming -- along with the concept itself. And in global crises, his reckless taste for grand, violent gestures rather than diplomatic solutions risks the ultimate disaster.
One observer noted results from NASA's increasing involvement in monitoring the Earth's environment have sparked political disputes concerning the Bush administration's environmental policies. Hansen said the elimination of the phrase involving protecting the planet might reflect a White House desire to shift the spotlight away from global warming. He told The Times: "They're making it clear that they ... prefer that NASA work on something that's not causing them a problem."
"A living planet can become a dead planet unless steps are taken." Exactly. Let's take the steps.