In Which Year Was the First Picture of Earth Taken From Space?

The Blue Marble, snapped by Apollo 17 astronauts.
By Latitude0116 at en.wikipedia, from Wikimedia Commons
(Originally by NASA)
What year was the first pic of Earth from space taken? - Question posed by @janshs.

On December 7th, 1972, the crew of Apollo 17 snapped what was to become an iconic image of the Earth. Known as 'the Blue Marble', the image (shown to the right, showing its original upside-down view of our planet) is one of not very many at all that show the entire daylit side of Earth in one shot*. The image is often seen inverted to show our planet the 'right way up'.

But this wasn't the first.

By Frank Borman, via Wikimedia Commons
In December 1968, another iconic shot of the Earth had already been snapped by the crew of Apollo 8 as it orbited the Moon. Coming out from the far-side of the Moon, the crew noticed for the first time the Earth rising in the Moon's sky, much like we see the Moon rising in the Earth's sky. This was the first time such an event was seen by human eyes, and became known as 'Earthrise'. The most famous shot to be taken at this time was in colour, but the first photograph to be taken as the astronauts realised what they were witnessing was in black and white. This is the image that I have included here, as it is less often seen.

But this wasn't the first either.

On August 23rd 1966 (at 16:35 GMT, if you're interested!), the unmanned probe Lunar Orbiter 1 took a similar Earthrise photograph, also in black and white, using its onboard camera. The spacecraft was on its 16th orbit, and about to pass behind the Moon. There is a thoroughly reprocessed version that was released in 1998 and shows a much clearer view of a small section of the original photograph, but here I am including a copy of the original 1966 image:

By NASA, via Wikimedia Commons
By NASA, via Wikimedia Commons
But, you guessed it, that wasn't the first one either.

In 1960 the experimental Tiros-1 weather satellite took and transmitted the first television image of the Earth from space. The satellite was operational for only 78 days, but provided evidence that satellites could be useful for observing weather conditions from space.

Again, however, this wasn't the first image taken of Earth from space.

This one was...

As far back as 1946, before even Sputnik achieved its fame, the German-designed V-2 rocket had its uses in astronomy. Originally designed as a ballistic missile and fired at London and Antwerp during the Second World War, its purpose was re-imagined and became humanity's first known successful sub-orbital space flight vehicle. The V-2s were unmanned, but were loaded with instruments to test the air and measure cosmic radiation at different altitudes. On October 24th 1946 a group of US scientists launched a V-2 rocket that included a camera designed to take a picture every 1.5 seconds, and the very first image of Earth as seen from space was retrieved from the reinforced steel cassette after the V-2 slammed into the ground at White Sands. Here it is:

By U.S. Army, via Wikimedia Commons
The V-2 rockets took photographs of the Earth from altitudes of over 100km -  around five times higher than the 22km record set by the Explorer II scientific research balloon in 1935, which was high enough to make out the curvature of the Earth.

* Many images that appear to show the entire Earth (or at least half of it) in daylight are actually composite images.


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