Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson: Musings on Photography

julius motal the phoblographer earthrise tyson

“Earthrise” was taken by NASA astronaut William Anders during Apollo 8 in 1968.

When I originally set out to interview Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, I sought his commentary on the Blue Marble photograph taken during Apollo 17 in 1972. I was putting together a retrospective on the image, and after having spoken with Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt and CSA astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield, I thought that Dr. Tyson could provide great commentary given his status as an astrophysicist and tenure as the director of the Hayden Planetarium. The piece, however, went to press before I secured the interview with him, so the Blue Marble was a very brief jumping off point into a conversation far more insightful than anything I could have anticipated.

This is one of the longest interviews we’ve done, so settle in with a hot cup of coffee (or tea) and enjoy.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Behind the Blue Marble: The Story Behind the Iconic Image

The Blue Marble. Courtesy of NASA.

The Blue Marble. Courtesy of NASA.

Along the way to the moon on Dec. 7, 1972, the crew of Apollo 17 had a beautiful view of Earth that would give us one of the most popular photographs to come out of NASA. One of their objectives was to take photographs of the lunar surface for mapping and scientific purposes. They also needed a record of what they did both on the moon and in flight. Earth-gazing was not on the list of photographic activities, but that perfect view was too good to pass up.

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