The 1st photo of Earth from space shows a look at the clouds from above. The image is from October 24, 1946. Image via White Sands Missile Range/ Applied Physics Laboratory
That was when a group of soldiers and scientists in the New Mexico desert launched a V-2 rocket – carrying a 35-mm motion picture camera – to a height 65 miles (105 km) above Earth’s surface.
NASA defines the edge of space as 50 miles (80 km) above the surface. After a few minutes, the camera dropped back to Earth and was destroyed on impact. But the film survived.
Reliving the momentous day:-Snapping a new frame every second and a half, the rocket-borne camera climbed straight up, then fell back to Earth minutes later, slamming into the ground at 500 feet per second.
Reliving the momentous day:-The camera itself was smashed, but the film, protected in a steel cassette, was unharmed.
Reliving the momentous day:-Fred Rulli was a 19-year-old enlisted man assigned to the recovery team that drove into the desert to retrieve film from those early V-2 shots.
Reliving the momentous day:-When the scientists found the cassette in good shape, he recalls, “They were ecstatic, they were jumping up and down like kids.”
Reliving the momentous day:-Later, back at the launch site, “when they first projected [the photos] onto the screen, the scientists just went nuts.”
Reliving the momentous day:-Before 1946, the highest pictures ever taken of the Earth’s surface were from the Explorer II balloon, which had ascended 13.7 miles in 1935, high enough to discern the curvature of the Earth.
Reliving the momentous day:-The V-2 cameras reached more than five times that altitude, where they clearly showed the planet set against the blackness of space.