T he 23rd of August in 1966 marked a watershed for mankind. On that momentous end-of-summer day, scientists beheld – for the first time in history – an image of our earth from space. The photograph, captured a quarter million miles away and at a vantage point of 730 miles above the moon, was transmitted from the Lunar Orbiter 1 – the first American spacecraft to orbit the moon.
And with this picture – the earliest documentation of the earth’s scale from the lunar surface – our universal perception of the planet shifted evermore. As in Man’s First Look at the Earth from the Moon, our globe triumphantly came to the fore in space, slightly eclipsed, peaking in the distance across a cratered, lunar surface.
Thus, on Christmas Eve, 1968, the earth was captured by Lunar Module Pilot William Anders in a novel light, as Anders and the rest of the Apollo 8 crew were the first humans to observe and snap a photograph of an Earthrise. The photograph was taken after Apollo 8 ascended from the dark side of the moon on their third orbit. The image was unplanned, and it was not until Apollo 8 entered their third orbit that they even witnessed the earth rising in the distance.
“We'd spent most of our time on Earth training about how to study the Moon, how to go to the Moon...I was immediately almost overcome by the thought that here we came all this way to see the Moon, and yet the most significant thing we're seeing is our own home planet, the Earth.”
Anders recalls, “As we came round the back side of the moon, where I had been taking pictures of craters near our orbital track, I looked up and saw the startlingly beautiful sight of our home planet “rising” up above the stark and battered lunar horizon. It was the only color against the deep blackness of space…”
The earth was glimpsed once again in July 1969. A half-dome in the background, our marble planet accompanied Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during the Lunar Module Eagle’s ascent stage, subsequent to man’s first landing on the moon just 26 hours earlier. Thereafter, each snapshot of our luminous world in space expands, revealing a never-before-seen dimension of our known universe.
Scroll below to view more resplendent images of the earth from space.