Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The one, the only, photograph of Earth

Virtually every picture showing the full Earth derives from one photograph taken in 1972. Yet hardly anybody notices this.

Apollo 17 was NASA's last and most successful manned Moon mission. Within just a few hours of launch the crew were 24,000 km away and could see an entire hemisphere of Earth. The photo they took was labelled AS17-148-22726 and was added to the hundreds of thousands of others in the NASA archives. And there it would have remained, were it not for environmental organisations and famine-relief organisations of the early 1980's. Its prominent depiction of Africa and Antarctica made it perfectly suited as symbols for both causes. Posters started appearing pairing the photo with captions such as "It's the only one we've got". [click title to see examples]

This initial boost was all that was needed to start a monopoly. From then on, whenever someone was seeking to use a photograph of Earth, naturally it was an example of AS17-148-22726 that one would find first. Television, newspapers, websites, mouse pads and marketing material are all oozing with copies of the photograph. Yet astonishingly few people notice that they are being presented with the same photo over and over.

via Neil Fraser: Writing: Earth Photograph via TotalFark

I wonder if it looks any different now.
I'm sure it's relatively the same.

That that distance it may be hard to see the fine details and the green sky.

The Sahara would be bigger and Antarctica may be slightly smaller.
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