25 photos that prove you're a stowaway on a tiny, fragile spaceship we call Earth
From the ground, Earth looks like a boundless fertile plain that beckons to be explored and exploited.But astronauts would beg - and even plead - to differ.Advertisement
"You realize that people often say, 'I hope to go to heaven when I die,'" Jim Lovell, an astronaut who flew on the Apollo 8 and Apollo 13 missions to the moon, recently told Business Insider. "In reality, if you think about it, you go to heaven when you're born."
Lovell has seen first-hand that we live on a tiny rock hopelessly lost in the void. He's also quick to tell you it's the only one we've got - a fragile spaceship for 7 billion people and counting:"You arrive on a planet that has the proper mass, has the gravity to contain water and an atmosphere, which are the very essentials for life. And you arrive on this planet that's orbiting a star just at the right distance - not too far to be too cold, or too close to be too hot - and just at the right distance to absorb that star's energy and then, with that energy, cause life to evolve here in the first place. In reality, you know, God has really given us a stage, just looking at where we were around the moon, a stage on which we perform. And how that play turns out is up to us, I guess."
Humanity has recorded photos of Earth from hundreds, thousands, millions, and even billions of miles away, some of them taken by Lovell himself.These images not only help scientists study our dynamic world, but also understand how a habitable planet looks from afar, which aids the search for more worlds. Most importantly, however, the images underscore our peculiar existence on a mote of cosmic dust. Take a moment to ponder 25 of the most arresting images of Earth that humankind has ever captured from space.Advertisement
A few rare satellites enjoy a full view of Earth from thousands or even a million miles away.
Their unending gaze helps us monitor the health of our world while catching rare alignments of the sun, moon, and Earth.Advertisement
They even catch the moon's drifting shadow during solar eclipses.
When we venture deeper into space, Earth comes into spellbinding focus.Advertisement
Our planet appears as a brilliant blue marble wrapped in a thin, nearly invisible veil of gas.
It drifts utterly alone in the blackness of space.Advertisement
Well, almost alone.
The moon — a cold, airless ball of rock 50 times smaller than Earth — is our largest and closest celestial friend.Advertisement
The moon's kinship with us is uncanny — it formed after a Mars-size planet smacked into a proto-Earth some 4.5 billion years ago.
We know this because nations all around the world have sent people and robots there since the 1950s.Advertisement
Our lunar exploration is a technological conquest...
As well as whetting of insatiable human curiosity ...Advertisement
And a quest for the ultimate adventure.
The Earth never seems to be too distant from the moon.Advertisement
But the farther out we send our spacecraft...
The more peculiar our home looks...Advertisement
And the more lonely it seems.
Most images don't accurately portray the distance between Earth and the moon.Advertisement
Only by traveling hundreds of thousands or millions of miles away can we truly appreciate what the 239,000 miles between two worlds actually looks like.
It is a vast and empty rift.Advertisement
Even when paired together, the Earth-moon system looks insignificant from deep space.
From the surface of Mars, Earth could just be another "moving star" in the night sky.Advertisement
Viewed from Saturn, Earth seems to vanish in the brilliant glow of the gas giant's icy rings.
Billions of miles from Earth, as Carl Sagan famously quipped, our world is just a "pale blue dot," a small and solitary orb where all of our triumphs and tragedies play out.Advertisement
Sagan's message is immutable: There is only one Earth, and so we must do everything in our power to protect it — mostly from ourselves.
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