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Starts With A Bang

Viewing the Earth from space celebrates 70 years

In 1946, we made history by photographing the Earth from space for the first time. How far we’ve come!

“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’” 
Edgar Mitchell

In 1946, the advent of rocket technology from World War II enabled humanity to surpass balloon-borne heights and cross into space for the first time.

The first photograph of the Earth from space, taken in 1946 from a V2 rocket. Image credit: U.S. Army / White Sands Missile Range / Applied Physics Laboratory.

These images, taken from atop V-2 rockets, revealed the blackness of space, as well as the Earth’s true curvature.

A panorama of many images stitched together from V2 rockets from flights in 1948. Image credit: Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory, U.S. Navy.

By the 1960s, Earth-monitoring satellites were placed to track weather and other transient phenomena.

Hurricane Gladys as imaged by NASA’s Nimbus 1 satellite in 1964. Image credit: NASA / E. Siegel (post-processing).

By traveling to greater distances, an entire hemisphere of Earth could be photographed at once.

The first color image of the Earth from space, thanks to the DODGE Satellite. Image credit: Department of Defense.

Traveling to the Moon enabled the first color photo of Earth seen rising over the limb of our natural satellite…

The famous “Earthrise” photo as taken by the Apollo 8 crew in 1968.

… while departing under just the right lighting conditions enabled the first color photo of the fully illuminated Earth to be taken.

The iconic “blue marble” photo taken by the crew of Apollo 17 in 1972. Image credit: NASA.

Since then, other spacecraft have imaged the Earth and Moon together, such as Voyager 1 in 1977.

This 1977 image is the first photo of the complete Earth and Moon in a single photograph. Image credit: NASA / Voyager 1.

Earth and the Moon have also been seen from Mars, thanks to Mars Global Surveyor in 2003.

The Earth and Moon, together, as captured from Mars in 2003. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Mars Global Surveyor.

And from Mercury, thanks to the Messenger spacecraft in 2010.

The Earth and Moon, as photographed together by Messenger in 2010. Image credit: MESSENGER science team, NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Earth has also been spectacularly viewed from Saturn, thanks to Cassini.

Earth as viewed by NASA’s Cassini mission in 2013. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Numerous satellites in low-Earth and geosynchronous orbits view Earth continuously today, enabling the creation of the highest-resolution, full-coverage photos ever.

The 2001–2002 composite images of the Blue Marble, constructed with NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data.

Mostly Mute Monday tells the story of a single astronomical phenomenon or object primarily in visuals, with no more than 200 words of text.

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