The First Images and Video Footage from Outer Space, 1946–1959

In Octo­ber 1946, Amer­i­can sci­en­tists, work­ing in White Sands, New Mex­i­co, shot a V‑2 mis­sile 65 miles into the air. The mis­sile (orig­i­nal­ly designed by the Nazis dur­ing World War II) car­ried a 35-mil­lime­ter cam­era aloft that snapped an image every sec­ond and a half. When the mis­sile returned to Earth, the cam­era itself was demol­ished by the impact. But the film, pro­tect­ed by a steel cas­ing, remained unscathed, accord­ing to Air & Space Mag­a­zine. And when the sci­en­tists recov­ered the film, they wit­nessed some­thing nev­er seen by humans before — the first images of our plan­et tak­en from out­er space. As one sci­en­tist put it, we got to see (above) “how our Earth would look to vis­i­tors from anoth­er plan­et com­ing in on a space ship.”

By the 1950s, the U.S. Air Force start­ed work­ing with a new line of mis­sile, the Thor mis­sile. And it made his­to­ry in May, 1959. Launched from Cape Canaver­al, the Thor Mis­sile Num­ber 187 car­ried a Gen­er­al Elec­tric-man­u­fac­tured “data cap­sule” and 16-mil­lime­ter cam­era in its nose cone. The flight last­ed 15 min­utes, cov­ered 1500 miles, and end­ed in the Atlantic Ocean. Accord­ing to the GE Film Cat­a­log, when the data cap­sule was recov­ered:

Gen­er­al Elec­tric sci­en­tists began the care­ful pro­cess­ing of the cap­sule’s con­tents. They were not long in find­ing the results they had hoped for—in the sub­dued light of a pho­to­graph­ic dark room, on a still-drip­ping strip of devel­oped motion pic­ture film, the eyes of man beheld for the first time the image of the earth as it appears from beyond the atmos­phere.

You can watch the his­toric video imme­di­ate­ly above.

To get more recent views of the Earth from out­er space, don’t miss these daz­zling videos:

via It’s Okay to be Smart

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