earth over gray rocky lunar horizon against black space

The crescent Earth clears the lunar horizon in this spectacular photograph taken from the Apollo 17 spacecraft in 1972. Credit: NASA | › Full image and caption

10 Things: Looking Homeward

By Bill Dunford

Feature | April 22, 2019

ON THIS PAGE

    NASA Science Live Episode 3: Our Weird Planet, Earth

    As we celebrate Earth Day 2019, here are 10 views of our home world — as it can only be seen from the distance of deep space.

    In addition, because this year we’re marking 50 years since the first humans set foot on the Moon, we present these views alongside 10 thoughts from NASA astronauts who have beheld Earth from afar with their own eyes.

    Para más información en español sobre estas maravillas, visite aquí.

    rotating earth
    The planet Earth on April 17, 2019. EPIC, a NASA camera aboard NOAA’s DSCOVR spacecraft, returns daily images of Earth from a distance of nearly 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers). Credit: NOAA/NASA EPIC Team | › Full image and caption

    1. Nothing for granted

    “I definitely see things on Earth a lot different than before I went. When we were up there, we had the distinct pleasure of being able to look out the window and see our beautiful planet and see continents, and no borders for countries, and I think that was a huge impression. You look down at the planet Earth and it's hard to imagine two people even arguing, never mind fighting down there, because it all looks like one, that we live on these wonderful continents together.

    The second impression I got was looking out the side window at how thin our little atmosphere is that protects us from all the dangers of living in space, of vacuum and heat and cold, and we can't take any of that for granted.”

    — Sunita Williams
    International Space Station, Expeditions 14/15 and 32/33

    half earth
    NASA’s Juno spacecraft, while en route to Jupiter, caught this view of Earth in October 2013. Part of South America is visible in this image. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS | › Full image and caption

    2. The definition of awe

    “I really believe I have a better understanding of the definition of the word ‘awe’ because of it all. It's one of those things that I wish anybody that wanted to do it could do it, if it was just for five minutes, could get up there and have that view.”

    — Nicole Stott
    Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-128 and STS-133

    earth over moon
    Our homeworld as seen from Apollo 10. Credit: NASA | › Full image and caption

    3. A sparkling blue and white jewel

    "Suddenly, from behind the rim of the Moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth ... home."

    — Edgar Mitchell
    Apollo 14

    earth and moon in space
    The Earth-Moon system, as seen by NASA’s Mariner 10 spacecraft in 1973. Credit: NASA/JPL/Northwestern University | › Full image and caption

    4. In this together

    “We can look down and realize that we are all riding through the Universe together on this spaceship we call Earth, that we are all interconnected, that we are all in this together, that we are all family.”

    — Ron Garan
    Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-124
    International Space Station, Expedition 27/28

    thin crescent earth
    ESA’s Rosetta mission passed by Earth in 2009 on its way to a rendezvous with a comet. Credit: ESA / OSIRIS Team MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / RSSD / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA | › Full image and caption

    5. A very fragile planet

    “I opened the payload bay doors and there was the Earth. And it was funny, because even without thinking, the first words out of my mouth were, ‘Oh my goodness, our atmosphere is so thin.’ So, that first view of the planet and just the instant impression of just how fragile our world is I think will always stay with me. Because, you know, intellectually, you know our atmosphere is thin. You can think about it and think about the circumference of the planet and the height of the atmosphere, but to see it really brings it home. It's like, ‘Wow, we have to take care of this place, we have a very fragile planet.’”

    — Sandy Magnus
    Space Shuttle Atlantis, STS-112 and STS-135
    Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-126

    earth and moon together from a great distance
    Earth and Moon as seen in 2007 by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter from orbit around the Red Planet. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona | › Full image and caption

    6. Infinitely precious

    “Floating alongside the International Space Station, I watched hurricanes cartwheel across oceans, the Amazon snake its way to the sea through a brilliant green carpet of forest and gigantic nighttime thunderstorms flash and flare for hundreds of miles along the Equator. From this God’s-eye-view, I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is. I’m hopeful for its future.”

    — Piers Sellers
    Space Shuttle Atlantis, STS-112 and STS-132
    Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-121

    view of star-like earth in mars sky and a view of star-like mars in earth sky
    Left: Earth in the evening sky of Mars, as seen by the Curiosity rover in 2014. Right: Mars rising over Salt Lake City. Credit: Mars - NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/TAMU; Earth - Bill Dunford | › Full image and caption

    7. Over my shoulder was home

    “And if I just lifted my gaze a little bit, and looking over my shoulder, on top of the mountain was the Earth, was home, was a beauty, which is always overpowering. I think anyone who's seen it in that light just can never forget — take that memory out of their mind.”

    — Eugene Cernan
    Gemini IX
    Apollo 10 and 17

    lens flare from sun peeking over crescent earth
    Earth eclipses the Sun, as seen from the Apollo 12 spacecraft during its journey home from the Moon. Credit: NASA | › Full image and caption

    8. That noisy argument silenced

    “I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles, their outlook could be fundamentally changed. That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions, presenting a unified facade that would cry out for unified understanding, for homogeneous treatment. The Earth must become as it appears: blue and white, not capitalist or Communist; blue and white, not rich or poor; blue and white, not envious or envied. Small, shiny, serene, blue and white, FRAGILE.”

    — Michael Collins
    Gemini X
    Apollo 11

    earth rising full over lunar horizon
    NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this unique view of Earth from the spacecraft's vantage point in orbit around the Moon. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University Full image and caption

    9. Overcome with emotion

    “I looked out and it was just huge Sahara desert and then the midland part, the equatorial region of Africa. No lines down there at all, no countries, no anything. I was just wiped out. I was just overcome with emotion, one looking at Africa, you know, my home country or my home continent if you will, just overcome with emotion. I just remember tears coming down my face.”

    — Charles Bolden
    Space Shuttle Columbia, STS-61C
    Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-31 and STS-60
    Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-45

    earth rising over lunar horizon
    Earth from Apollo 11, 50 years ago. Credit: NASA | › Full image and caption

    10. The most important thing we discovered

    “We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”

    — William Anders
    Apollo 8