World Photography Day is coming up in a few shut-eyes, and to celebrate, let us step back in time and take a look at some of man’s best achievements in the field of photography: the first photos of the Earth from space.
Since time immemorial, man has been looking up to the heavens, wondering about what’s beyond the seemingly infinite sky. Such curiosity has driven man not only to fly and reach the heavens, but also to study the celestial bodies that govern night and day.
The Babylonians first held the idea that astronomical phenomena occur in cycles; the ancient Greeks are among the civilizations with early concepts of planets, stars, and the cosmos; the ancient Chinese thought that the heavens are “empty and void of substance.” After many centuries, theories, discoveries, and inventions, man eventually crossed the borders of his home planet and had a glimpse of the strange realm beyond it.
And he made sure a camera was there to document it.
The first photos of the Earth from outer space were among man’s most important milestones not only in space exploration, but also in the field of photography. The stunning and surreal images were unlike anything man has ever seen before, especially the earliest color photos of the stunning “blue marble” planet that he calls home.
In time for World Photography Day on August 19th, let’s take a look at some of the photographs that made their mark in the history of photography and astronomy:
Said to be one of the very first photos of the Earth taken from outer space, the photo above was part of the set taken by a motion picture camera mounted to a V-2 ballistic missile fired in October 1946.
First photo of the Earth from the moon, taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in August 1966. Here, half of the Earth, from Istanbul to Cape Town, is shown blanketed by nighttime.
These photos showing the Earth set amidst the lunar landscape and emerging from the dark expanse of outer space were taken by Apollo 8 in 1968. The mission’s crew were the first people to leave the Earth’s orbit and reach the moon’s far side. Their photographic mission initially involved only the lunar surface, but they snapped a couple of photos when they passed by the awe-inspiring view which eventually became known as the “Earthrise.”
This photo, popularly known as the “Blue Marble,” is the first full view image of the Earth taken by the Apollo 17 crew in December 1972. With the sun behind them, the crew snapped this photo of the perfectly illuminated Earth as they left the planet’s orbit on the way to the moon.
Sources and additional readings:
Milestones in Space Photography - National Geographic
Forty years since the first picture of earth from space - The Independent
The First Photo from Space - Air & Space Mag
Outer space - Wikipedia
Greek Astronomy - Wikipedia
Babylonian Astronomy - Wikipedia
What do you think of these early photos of the Earth taken from outer space? Tell us with a comment below!