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Our Planet Earth

Photos of Earth taken from Space give us a perspective that is impossible from the ground. Clearly, the "blue marble" of Earth floating in empty space shows the tremendous contrast between the Earth teeming with life of all kinds, and the bleak surface of the moon or the cold darkness of outer space.

The earliest pictures of Planet Earth from space were taken on October 24, 1946. They were taken at an altitude of 65 miles over the Earth by a V-2 missile which was launched at the White Sands Missile Range. The shadowy, monochromatic photos clearly showed the curvature of the Earth, though at that low altitude only a partial view of the Earth's surface was possible.It was not until 1961, with the start of NASA manned missions into space, that Americans could see stunning photographs of the Earth from space –- photographs that changed everything.To see the Earth from space meant obtaining a perspective never before possible for mankind. From space no political boundaries, no borders, no racial or religious divides are visible. Instead we see that our home planet is a shimmering blue-green ball hanging in the darkness of Space. Even from afar, the evidence of ever-present life is clear: 77% of the planet is covered with sparkling blue water; white-cloud weather forms swirl around the globe; and the infinite textures of green signal the presence of photosynthesis-based plant life.On December 24, 1968 NASA crew member William A. Anders took a famous photo from the Apollo 8 spacecraft in lunar orbit as it came around the far side of the moon. NASA commander Frank Borman shouted, "Oh my God, look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up!"Earthrise, as this photograph was named, is surely one of the most stunning and eloquent photographs ever taken of the planet from Space. We see the watery fertility of our life-filled planet contrasting with the sterile lunar landscape below, set before the background of vast and empty Space.Noted outdoors photographer Galen Rowell has described this image as "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken."Perhaps we are habituated, after all this time. A NASA website lists some 745,000 photographs of Earth from space. Yet these pictures evoke a sense of place in a way that language cannot. These photographs can call up again that experience of awe we felt when we first viewed Earthrise –- and to strongly remind us how vast and beautiful and vulnerable is this planet.Artist Lance Hidy has said that the photographs of Earth from Space changed history. We can no longer ignore the fragility of EarthFree Reprint Articles, nor the necessity of cooperation to effectively take care of the environment.

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David Yarian, Ph.D. recommends books and resources on nature and the environment at Also visit The Guide to Self-Help Books at

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