Pointing a Celestial Mirror at a Pivotal Time in History
Note from the editors: The content on this page is a digital mirror of our quarterly print magazine, The Planetary Report. Our print content must be finalized roughly 2 months in advance, so you'll read references to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic describing it as a singular moment in history and an opportunity to reflect on our commitment to take care of each other and the Earth.
While some of the sentiments we expressed in this issue could also be applied to the fight against racism, they were not intended as such. Inspirational words and images alone will not undo the fundamental societal disparities that plague our planet.
The Planetary Society's goal is to make space for everyone. We can only do that by becoming an organization that actively opposes racism. Let's get to work.
Until the advent of spaceflight, we humans could only imagine what our planet looked like from space. Ever since we started sending robotic probes and humans into the cosmos, we’ve had a natural inclination to turn the camera back on ourselves to see our fragile world hanging in the blackness of space. As a result, some of the most memorable images in the history of spaceflight are of Earth.
During this singular moment in history as the entire world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, we thought it would be appropriate to share some of our favorite pictures of Earth from space. Seeing our entire planet occupy just a few inches of page space gives us a sobering reminder of our commitment to take care of each other and Earth—the only home we’ve ever known.
Calming words from Carl Sagan, pictures and videos from space, and resources for the whole family: The Planetary Society is here to help you explore the cosmos during a time of global isolation.
NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
Earth, as seen by Surveyor 7
This image of Earth was captured by Surveyor 7 in 1968. The image, stored on a 70 millimeter film reel negative, also contains calibration metadata.
Peggy Whitson in the Cupola
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson floats in the International Space Station’s Cupola—a 7-windowed portal that provides 360-degree views of Earth. Ever since its installation in 2010, the Cupola has been a favorite spot for astronauts aboard the station.
The Planetary Society
West coast of India from LightSail 2
This image taken by LightSail 2 on 21 January 2020 includes the west coast of India. North is at right. The sail appears slightly curved due to the spacecraft's 185-degree fisheye camera lens. The image has been color corrected and some of the distortion has been removed.
Earth and the Moon from Chang’e-5 T1 beyond the lunar farside
The Chang'e 5 test vehicle captured this beautiful view of Earth over the far side of the Moon on October 28, 2014.
Antarctica from Galileo
This unique view of Earth’s south pole shows Antarctica as seen by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft during a flyby in 1990.
Pale Blue Dot Revisited
In 1990, Voyager 1 turned its camera back on Earth from a distance of 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles) and captured the now-famous “pale blue dot” image of Earth suspended in a ray of sunlight scattered by the camera lens. For the 30th anniversary of the photo in February 2020, NASA’s Kevin M. Gill reprocessed the image using modern image software and techniques.
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft snapped this image of the Earth’s night side during a 2007 slingshot past our planet. Rosetta was over the Indian Ocean at the time; India is visible at center.
Earth with Apollo 11 Lunar Lander
This image, taken by the Apollo 11 crew during their historic July 1969 moonwalk, shows Earth suspended high above the lunar lander.