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

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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
The famous "Earthrise" photo, taken from the moon during the Apollo 8 mission.  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
The "Blue Marble," shot by Apollo 17 in 1972.  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.