First picture from outer space

In 1946 a modified V-2 rocket took the first picture of our planet from outer space.

Earth from space
U.S. Army, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes I think that we take for granted the fact that we’ve all seen pictures of our whole planet, like the famous Blue Marble photo. Such pictures, and the perspective they give us, did not exist for most of human history. In fact, the first photograph of the planet from outer space wasn’t taken until 1946, when a 35mm video camera was attached to a V-2 rocket and fired straight upwards.

The V-2 rockets were a German wartime technology, and a V-2 rocket was the first artificial object to get into outer space (in 1944). After the war, rocket parts were taken by Allied forces and shipped to the United States and the Soviet Union. The rockets claimed by the US were used for numerous scientific tests – and pretty much kicked off the American space programme.

The camera attached to Rocket V-2 No. 13 produced the picture above. The rocket itself crashed – the V-2s were not designed to return safely to the ground – but the film was extracted from the wreckage safe and sound.

Humans had already seen the curvature of the Earth – firstly from a 1935 balloon flight, which I may write about another time – but the picture from V-2 No. 13 was the first time we saw the Earth against the blackness of space.

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