Here is the first photo taken in space, in 1946

When did mankind start photographing from space? It all started in 1946, with a historical image of our planet.

Various space agencies and astrophotographers regularly share their best shots of the sky and celestial objects. These images are not only breathtaking, or strange, but they are also invaluable resources for a better knowledge of what surrounds us. Since when does humanity photograph from space?

It all started 75 years ago. Before 1946, space had never been observed using a photograph. And humans had never been able to contemplate the Earth seen from space. On October 24, 1946, servicemen and scientists from the White Sands Missile Test Range, a US Army launch base in New Mexico, launched a V2 ballistic missile. He carried with him a 35-millimeter camera, which for the first time imaged the Earth from space.

Ballistic missile V2. // Source: Pxhere / CC0 Public domain

100 kilometers above sea level

As Australian astronomer Kirsten Banks says on TikTok, the machine reached an altitude of about 100 kilometers. This height corresponds today to the limit between the Earth’s atmosphere and space, according to the International Aeronautical Federation (FAI). The images could be preserved despite the forced landing, thanks to a steel box, described le Space Center Houston (part of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center at NASA, Texas). Before this photograph, the curvature of the Earth had already been observed, reminds the Space Center Houston: it was in 1935, when the United States’ Explorer II stratospheric balloon had climbed to more than 20,000 meters.

The V2s were not designed for this purpose: these missiles were developed in Germany during World War II. At the end of the conflict, the United States recovered some of the stocks, and used them in the development of NASA’s civilian space program. Researchers were able to mobilize them in order to carry out atmospheric studies. From 1946 to 1950, the Space Center Houston states that more than 1,000 images could have been sent from space.

Dazzling advances in space imagery

Not only could scientists use these snapshots to better understand geology and meteorology, but they were also useful for studying space imagery and photography. Today, it is an important skill for astronauts sent on mission aboard the International Space Station: knowing how to take photographs of the Earth from space, of its storms for example. And then, photography from space can help us imagine what extraterrestrials would see if they ever came close to our planet.

To imagine the progress made in the field of photography from space in a relatively short period of time, one need only think of another striking image: probably the most famous of the Apollo 8 mission, taken on December 24, 1968 and named ” The earthworm “. We can see the Earth partly shaded, with the surface of the Moon in the foreground.

The first photo taken in space, on the left. On the right, the “Earthrise”. // Source: Wikimedia / Public Domain / US Army & Nasa (Numerama montage)

Look at the world from space

The continuation in video

Source: Numerama by

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