Earth from Space
First photo of the whole Earth forever changed the way we see our planet, NASA
Perhaps one of the most powerful images of all time, the first photo of the whole Earth, taken November 10, 1967, has had a significant impact on human consciousness. Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, had these observations about the image:
[It was] motivating for a lot of people, because it gave the sense that Earth is an island, surrounded by a lot of inhospitable space. And it’s so graphic, this little blue, white, green, and brown jewel-like icon amongst a quite featureless black vacuum. Islands know about limitations. Bucky [Buckminster Fuller] led me to this notion. He said people still think the earth is flat because they act as if its resources are infinite. But that photograph showed otherwise…. This is all we’ve got and we’ve got to make it work. There’s no backup. (Massive Change Radio, March 2, 2004)
After this image achieved wide-scale circulation, Earth Day was founded and gained a broad political following, enlisting support from all kinds of people who are moved by both the limitations and the uniqueness of our planet.
Tracking the junk orbiting our Earth
There are nearly ten thousand man-made objects larger than a softball in Earth orbit. Of these, only seven percent are operational satellites. The remaining ninety-three percent consists of dead satellites, rocket fragments and debris. While these objects are generally very far apart, their presence and great velocity can potentially interfere with space missions and even threaten the lives of astronauts - a tiny speck of paint from a satellite once dug a quarter-inch hole in a space shuttle window. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been tracking these objects since 1961. Today, before every critical launch, analysts perform a collision avoidance test to make sure the mission will not cross paths with any of these objects.
Earth’s Protective Ozone
The ozone hole
NASA, Ozone Processing Team, Goddard Space Flight Center
In 1983 scientists noticed strangely low levels of ozone, the layer of Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation. They began to produce visualizations that showed an alarming ozone “hole” over the South Pole. These images were key to gaining the attention of the scientific community, the public and governments. By revealing that the ozone was being affected by emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from aerosol cans, refrigerators and air conditioners, these images mobilized action worldwide that led to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an international treaty to eliminate CFC production and consumption. Between 1986 and 1997, global production of CFCs dropped by eighty-five percent, a significant victory for the environment, and proof of the power of visualization. (more…)