The first photo of Earth was taken 70 years ago from a Nazi rocket

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

On Oct. 24, 1946, the first extraterrestrial view of Earth was shot from 65 miles away aboard a Nazi-built V-2 rocket launched by American scientists, according to Smithsonian magazine. Thanks to a Devry 35-millimeter movie camera, Earthlings saw their planet for the first time as a grainy, black-and-white mass that looked more like paint under a microscope than humanity's home for at least the last 200,000 years.

Before that, the closest thing we had to a photograph of Earth was taken from the Explorer II hot air balloon in 1935, from 13.7 miles high, Motherboard reported. The V-2 mission, launched from White Sands Missile Base, produced a photo of Earth from nearly five times the distance of the Explorer. Following the first V-2 shot, scientists spent the better part of the next four years taking over 1,000 images of the planet, according to Smithsonian

The famous "Earthrise" photo, taken from the moon during the Apollo 8 mission.
Source: 
NASA

When you see the image now, it doesn't inspire awe the way it did 70 years ago. Now, we have quintessential Earth photos like "Earthrise" photographed by Apollo 8 astronauts in 1968, and "Blue Marble," shot by the Apollo 17 crew in 1972. 

The "Blue Marble," shot by Apollo 17 in 1972.
Source: 
NASA

But take a step back and think about how far we've come.

In 1946, humans saw their home for the first time, the way someone on another planet might see it. Roughly 70 years later, we have a robotic four-wheeler scooting around the surface of Mars, a planet over 34 million miles from Earth, taking pictures and sending them home. The V-2 shots, on the other hand, were retrieved from the desert by then-19-year-old Fred Rulli, according to Smithsonian. But the presentation of that first image probably looked a lot like how we respond to new photos of the Martian atmosphere.

"They were ecstatic, they were jumping up and down like kids," Rulli told Smithsonian, describing scientists seeing the recovered V-2 footage. "When they first projected [the photos] onto the screen, the scientists just went nuts."

Imagine what scientists will be excited to show us in another 70 years.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Max Plenke

Max Plenke is a staff writer at Mic, where he covers breaking news, climate science, health and the future. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ and Wallpaper. Send story tips to max@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Meet the Girl Scouts that will earn badges for being cybersecurity experts

They'll soon get badges for coding, cryptography and more.

How to use the Snapchat Map while everyone else continues to be confused about it

Everything you need to know about the new feature.

Planet 10? Scientists may have discovered a hidden planet in our solar system

There could be a ninth — or even 10th — planet hiding out in our solar system.

Scientists created a robot that will iron your clothes for you

Shut up and take my money.

Moth eyes have inspired the touchscreen of the future

It's going to change the anti-reflection game.

Twitter was flagging tweets including the word "queer" as potentially "offensive content"

Why Twitter put the word "queer" in the same category as violent, sexual imagery.

Meet the Girl Scouts that will earn badges for being cybersecurity experts

They'll soon get badges for coding, cryptography and more.

How to use the Snapchat Map while everyone else continues to be confused about it

Everything you need to know about the new feature.

Planet 10? Scientists may have discovered a hidden planet in our solar system

There could be a ninth — or even 10th — planet hiding out in our solar system.

Scientists created a robot that will iron your clothes for you

Shut up and take my money.

Moth eyes have inspired the touchscreen of the future

It's going to change the anti-reflection game.

Twitter was flagging tweets including the word "queer" as potentially "offensive content"

Why Twitter put the word "queer" in the same category as violent, sexual imagery.