This day in 73 years ago, the first photograph of the earth was taken from outer-space by a camera hooked on to a manmade object. It was one of the most iconic moments for all of us, defying the claims of many people, of the earth being flat. It is flabbergasting to know that it’s not even been a century and we have been planning to move to the neighbouring planet, Mars.
Officially named V-2 No. 13 and nicknamed as ‘The White Sands’ rocket was the first man-made object to carry a camera and take a photograph of the earth from outer space. The White Sand was a modified version of a V-2 rocket. It was launched on 24th October 1946, at the White Sands Missile Range in White Sands, New Mexico. The rocket reached the maximum altitude of 65 mi (105 km). The famous photograph was taken with an attached DeVry 35 mm black-and-white motion picture camera.
The German V2 rocket was captured by the Americans at the end of World War II. Post-war America & Russia got indulged in space programs and hundreds of scientists and engineers from the Nazi rocket program were vital in the success of the programme. The V2 was a terror for the Britishers as it rained a lot of attacks on the land during the war. However, postwar the explosive warhead was from the rocket to equip it with more scientific equipment. This equipment included a 35mm motion-picture camera set to snap one picture every second and a half.
Until 1946; the highest ever point from which photos were taken was as high as merely 22 km using an air balloon. However, 24th October’s V2 launch changed everything. After reaching the whopping height of 65 km, the rocket starts dropping back towards the earth at a speed of 500 feet per second. However, the film on the camera was protected by a metal case (a steel canister) so that when the rocket crash lands, the film still stays protected. After the drop, the film was as safe as nothing had happened. The film was securely retrieved from the rockets residue and then the pictures were developed.
Although pictures were taken using the balloon had shown the curvature of the Earth at the horizon, but the pictures taken with the V2 opened up new possibilities.
Clyde Holliday, the engineering mind behind the development of the camera and the whole idea, saw the potential in this. In a 1950 National Geographic article, he predicted that one day “the entire land area of the globe might be mapped in this way”.
People like him are the reason that in merely 70 years, we have progressed enough that we, as a civilization, have our steps marked on moon’s surface and have been able to reach every single way with our satellites. The space technology entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos from Blue Origin & Elon Musk are professing theories of setting up cities on Mars and moon to help enable further space exploration.