Seventy years ago today, humans took a photo of our home planet as seen from space for the first time.
The image itself is unassuming.
Taken from aboard a Nazi-built V2 rocket on Oct. 24, 1946, the black and white photo shows a smattering of clouds casting shadows down upon our planet.
The photo was taken from about 105 kilometers (65 miles) above Earth by a rocket launched from the White Sands Missile Range long before Sputnik truly began the space age in 1957.
Unbeknownst at the time to the American scientists and engineers who launched the rocket, that photo was humanity’s first salvo into what has become one of the most important uses for spaceflight yet discovered.
Since 1946, Earth imaging has become an integral part of government as well as private work.
Taking photos of Earth from above isn’t just about tracking weather or even spying. Photos taken of the planet by commercial satellites are used to show people the world through applications like Google Earth. Some organizations also hope to track issues like deforestation or even poverty using the bird’s eye view of our home planet.
NASA and other space agencies around the world keep an eye on our planet from above using a variety of satellites equipped with cameras designed to monitor Earth’s weather and other systems.
And these satellites have delivered some incredible views of our planet back to people on the ground.
A camera onboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory, located about 1 million miles from Earth, takes an image of the full, sunlit side of the planet every two hours.
In these photos, the world shines like a blue marble against the blackness of space and are designed to show people what they would see if they were to fly out to where the observatory is located.