December 7th and “The Blue Marble”
December 7th is a day in United States history remembered for the attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii by Japan in 1941 and official entry into World War II. It would probably have been hard for anyone who lived during that era to imagine that in just 31 years, on December 7th 1972 that three men would be in what many would call a tin can hurling towards the Moon in Apollo 17.
The Apollo 17 mission to the Moon would be the first time that location and timing made it possible for the crew of the Apollo 17 to take what is referred to as the “Blue Marble” picture and what has become one of the most famous pictures ever taken, even competing with distribution of the famous flag raising by U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima. The Apollo 17 mission would also be the last time anyone has left the earth’s orbit or ventured back to the Moon.
"The Blue Marble" photograph was taken while Apollo 17 was traveling toward the Moon from about 29,000 kilometers or about 18,000 statute miles. The picture is among the most widely distributed photographs in history. Depicting a fully lit Earth, the snapshot was originally taken "upside-down," with Antarctica on top. Although there had been previous Apollo missions, the Apollo 17 mission was the first one where the trajectory made it possible to photograph the south polar ice cap and also get a completely lighted earth.
The “Blue Marble” photograph is considered a beautiful image of the earth and a reminder of how small and fragile the earth is. It depicts a beautiful array of colors and is void of the up close realities its people endure. Thirty one years ago the people of that time were bursting with excitement and a adventurous spirit in the missions to the Moon, however most of the middle aged and older people of that time also remembered December 7th 1941, that infamous day that will always be remembered.
While the day December 7th continues to be remembered each year, the more important issue of the date is forgotten or not even understood by many. The attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan and the takeover of the Orient by Japan in the 1930s along with the takeover by Hitler and Germany of Europe and Africa in the 1930s is part of history. The deaths of millions of lives throughout the world by Japan and Germany prior to December 7th 1941 and the United States involvement is also history. The issue that must be remembered and taught is not that it happened, but why it happened, and to not repeat the errors in judgment of the past. Six decades after the World War II era, most scholars of history and economics tend to agree that isolationist policies of the United States and the policies of President Roosevelt had failed, prolonged the war and the economic Great Depression, and cost more lives by ignoring what was happening.
While the official stat date of World War II is considered December 7th 1941, the hostilities in the world had begun with Japan in September 1931 with the invasion of Manchuria China. In 1933 Hitler took over Germany through legal processes, gained power through unions and government controls and would invade 17 countries plus partner with Italy before the United States involvement in the war.
During the 1930s the United States was plagued with isolationist mentality and a belief that the problems of the world were not United States problems, ignoring the facts and reality that world problems will eventually become United States problems. The first actions by Japan in 1931 until the end of World War II in 1945 spanned 14 years, of which the United States was involved in four years.
The policy and believe of ignoring the world and not learning from past history seems to only allow for history to repeat itself. Ignoring Japan and Germany did not prevent December 7th, but instead could be said it caused it. Likewise ignoring the years of bombings, organizing and plotting by terrorist organizations did not prevent September 11th, and here again one could argue that by ignoring it we allowed it to happen.
No matter how many times history repeats itself, every generation seems to forget the lessons of past generations and despite the best intentions, or in some cases self-interest, they end up repeating history. The lesson is to learn from the past so as not to repeat them in the future. Ignoring or pretending a problem does not exist does not make it go away, it just makes it a bigger problem.
The photo was originally taken 'upside down' in that the North Pole was at the bottom of the photo. This is because of the orientation in which the astronauts were traveling at the time.