The Apollo program pierced the United States and the world in the 1960s for its heroic efforts to keep President John F. Kennedy’s promise to go to the moon. But perhaps his most endearing legacy has been not to visit the barren world which is our planetary companion, but to give us a view of the generous world which is our home.
When Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders took a photo of the Earth, partially in shadow, rising above the surface of the moon in 1968, it provided the clearest image ever of our world and its fragility in space.
“Earthrise”, “Blue Marble” and “Pale Blue Dot”
The Apollo missions, which ended in 1972, coincided with the birth of the modern environmental movement – the founding of Friends of the Earth in 1969 and Greenpeace in 1971, the first Earth Day in 1970, among other founding events – and the view of Earth. of space offered inspiration and motivation. Several years later, photographer Galen Rowell described Earthrise as “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken”.
Earthrise was followed by Blue Marble, a view of Earth taken from the Apollo 17 spacecraft in 1972. It was the last of Apollo’s lunar missions, but NASA’s space probes continued to look fiery towards their home world.
One of the most famous of these images was taken in 1990. On the initiative of Carl Sagan, who first proposed to photograph the Earth with Voyager cameras in 1981, Voyager 1 took the image of a barely visible Earth that became known as the “Pale Blue Dot”. “Voyager also captured images of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus, and staff at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory mounted the assembly as a mosaic on an auditorium wall. Image of Earth had to be replaced several times because so many people touched it.
A library of Earth images continues to grow
In 1989 NASA formalized a Mission on planet Earth, in which the examination of the third planet from the sun was no longer incidental to her work but central to it. In the three decades that have passed since then, the agency’s Earth science observation program has grown in line with technological capacity and the growing imperative to do so.
Using interplanetary probes, orbiting satellites and astronauts with cameras on space shuttles and the and the International Space Station, NASA and partners such as the European Space Agency (ESA) have compiled a library of images ever growing from our own planet.
The images reveal how the Earth is changed by land use, human activities, weather and climate change. Thousands upon thousands of images reveal moments in time and seemingly timeless views of our world from near and far.