Pictures of Earth by Planetary Spacecraft

Lunar Orbiter sent back the first photo of Earth over the Moon, but it was the Apollo program that produced the first widely publicized views of Earth as a colorful marble floating in black space, images that revolutionized public perception of our fragile planet. At the same time, Soviet Zond spacecraft were capturing similarly dramatic images. Later, Clementine reprised these views. As spacecraft began to launch on journeys to more distant planets, never to return, their mission controllers often commanded them to take departing views of Earth and the Moon. Mariner 10 and Voyager 1 both took such snapshots, as did Mars Odyssey and Venus Express.

Other spacecraft traveling to eventual orbit around other planets required one or more gravity-assist flybys of Earth; a year or more after their launches, Galileo, Hayabusa, Rosetta, and MESSENGER returned to the neighborhood, shooting photos and even movies as they flew by. Some planetary travelers -- like Voyager 1, Mars Global Surveyor, Cassini, Deep Impact, the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter -- were even able to turn toward Earth and capture distant glimpses of their home planets from their eventual destinations. With the dawning of an International Lunar Decade and multiple missions returning to the Moon, new views came in from Kaguya, Chandrayaan-1, and Chang'E. Most recently, GRAIL's little MoonKAM has returned photos of Earth from the Moon.