The Powerful Portrait of Earth That Changed a Generation’s Perspective

This photograph shows our Earth moving through a void. Our world of war and earthquakes, but also peace and beauty. All of it and all of us so close together, so small in the universe. -1972 Newscast

On December 24, 1972, a photo of Planet Earth from NASA’s last Apollo space mission helps mankind realize we’re all in this together. Within a few hours of leaving Earth, the astronauts were able to turn their cameras back around to see the whole illuminated globe and take one of the most iconic images of Earth, dubbed the “Blue Marble.”

For Generation X, the famous image becomes a powerful symbol that connects us all, the entire human race in one picture.

Watch: Earth’s First Selfie

From just before the famous Apollo 17 image to the more recent DSCOVR satellite image, here’s a look at some stunning images of our shared planet, and one portrait of the solar system that brings to light what it means to live on this “pale blue dot.”

Earthrise, December 1968

Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts-Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders-held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. Said Lovell, "The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth." They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis.
Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts-Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders-held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. Said Lovell, “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.” They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis. (Photograph by NASA)

First Portrait of the Solar System/The Pale Blue Dot, February 1990

This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed 'Pale Blue Dot', is a part of the first ever 'portrait' of the solar system taken by Voyager 1. From Voyager's great distance--4 billion miles from Earth--our planet is a mere point of light, less than the size of a picture element even in the narrow-angle camera. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size. Photograph by NASA JP
This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed “Pale Blue Dot,” is a part of the first-ever “portrait” of the solar system taken by Voyager 1. From Voyager’s great distance–4 billion miles from Earth–our planet is a mere point of light. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size. This image went on to inspire the title of the late Carl Sagan’s book, “The Pale Blue Dot.” (Photograph by NASA JP)

Western Hemisphere During Hurricane Linda, September 1997

Image created by Reto Stockli with the help of Alan Nelson, under the leadership of Fritz Hasler
Recalling the famous Apollo-era pictures of Earth taken by lunar astronauts, this digital image is a spectacular portrait of the Western Hemisphere at the time of one of the strongest hurricanes ever observed in the Eastern Pacific. This combination of science, engineering and artistry was generated by researchers in the Laboratory for Atmospheres at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, using data from three different Earth-observing satellite instruments.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
These data are draped across a digital elevation model of Earth’s topography from the U.S. Geological Survey. The complete computer image file is 26 megabytes, making it one of the most detailed Earth images ever created by NASA. (Image created by Reto Stockli with the help of Alan Nelson, under the leadership of Fritz Hasler)

Global Night View, October 2012

NASA Earth Observatory image and animation by Robert Simmon, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data provided courtesy of Chris Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center). Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.
This new global view of Earth’s city lights is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite. The data was acquired over nine days in April 2012 and thirteen days in October 2012. It took satellite 312 orbits and 2.5 terabytes of data to get a clear shot of every parcel of Earth’s land surface and islands. This new data was then mapped over existing Blue Marble imagery to provide a realistic view of the planet.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (NASA Earth Observatory image and animation by Robert Simmon, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data provided courtesy of Chris Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center). Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.)

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, October 2015

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured a unique view of Earth from the spacecraft's vantage point in orbit around the moon. This image was composed from a series of images taken Oct. 12, when LRO was about 83 miles (134 kilometers) above the moon's farside crater Compton. Capturing an image of the Earth and moon with LRO's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) instrument is a complicated task. First the spacecraft must be rolled to the side (in this case 67 degrees), then the spacecraft slews with the direction of travel to maximize the width of the lunar horizon in LROC's Narrow Angle Camera image. All this takes place while LRO is traveling faster than 3,580 miles per hour (over 1,600 meters per second) relative to the lunar surface below the spacecraft!
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured a unique view of Earth from the spacecraft’s vantage point in orbit around the moon. This image was composed from a series of images taken Oct. 12, when LRO was about 83 miles (134 kilometers) above the moon’s farside crater Compton. Capturing an image of the Earth and moon with LRO’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) instrument is a complicated task. First the spacecraft must be rolled to the side (in this case 67 degrees), then the spacecraft slews with the direction of travel to maximize the width of the lunar horizon in LROC’s Narrow Angle Camera image. All this takes place while LRO is traveling faster than 3,580 miles per hour (over 1,600 meters per second) relative to the lunar surface below the spacecraft! (Image Courtesy of NASA)

View From the Top, May 2012

Image by Norman Kuring, NASA/GSFC/Suomi NPP. Caption by Michael Carlowicz. Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, NOAA and the Department of Defense.
There have been many images of the full disc of Earth from space—a view often referred to as “the Blue Marble”—but few have looked quite like this. Using natural-color images from the Visible/Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the recently launched Suomi-NPP satellite, a NASA scientist has compiled a new view showing the Arctic and high latitudes.                                                                                    
Ocean scientist Norman Kuring of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center pieced together this composite image of Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the entire Arctic. It was compiled from 15 satellite passes made by Suomi-NPP on May 26, 2012. The spacecraft circles the Earth from pole to pole at an altitude of 824 kilometers (512 miles), so it takes multiple passes to gather enough data to show an entire hemisphere without gaps in the view. (Image by Norman Kuring, NASA/GSFC/Suomi NPP. Caption by Michael Carlowicz. Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, NOAA and the Department of Defense.)

DSCOVR Satellite First View of the Entire Sunlit Side of Earth, July 2015

NASA image courtesy of the DSCOVR EPIC team. NASA Earth Observatory animation by Joshua Stevens. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.
A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away. (NASA image courtesy of the DSCOVR EPIC team. NASA Earth Observatory animation by Joshua Stevens. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.)

Generation X premieres Sunday at 9/8c on the National Geographic Channel