It was the launching of human beings into space in the 1960’s which gave humanity a new ecological awareness. In 1988 the international Association of Space Explorers published a book called “The Home Planet”. The Russian Cosmonaut Oleg Makarov wrote: “Within seconds of attaining Earth orbit, every cosmonaut without exceptionutters the same sort of confused expression of delight and wonder…the emotional outbursts last 42 seconds on average.” In his Foreword to the book, the under-water explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau comments: “From their exceptional journeys, they all came back with the revelation of beauty…They all emphasize that our planet is one, that borderlines are artificial, that humankind is one single community on spaceship Earth. They all insist that this fragile gem is at our mercy, and that we must all endeavour to protect it.”
It was especially the first Moon landing in 1969 which brought this home to millions of people. Those first images of Earthrise enabled everyone to see what the astronauts were talking about. The Moon landing was an amazing paradox: humanity’s highest-ever technological achievement filled us all with pride, but also revealed our insignificance in the cosmos, and our utter dependence on the marvellous ecosystems of our planet. It was said at the time that, “We went to the Moon, and we discovered the Earth”.
At a time when climate science is being rubbished by powerful interests, and divisions between peoples are being strengthened, let these silent images remind us of the truth, of our vulnerability and our responsibilities.