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The blue marble

Gregory A Petsko

Author Affiliations

Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454-9110, USA

Genome Biology 2011, 12:112  doi:10.1186/gb-2011-12-4-112

Published: 28 April 2011

First paragraph (this article has no abstract)

It is one of the most iconic images - not just of our time, but of all time. The picture of the earth as seen from 28,000 miles (45,000 km) out in space - often called 'the blue marble' because it resembles the spherical agates we used to play with as children - was taken on 7 December 1972 by the crew of the spacecraft Apollo 17 (it is reproduced here). The Arabian Peninsula is clearly visible at the top, with the east coast of Africa extending down towards Antarctica, the white mass at the bottom. (The original picture was actually upside down from this view, but the picture is usually presented rotated as it is here).) For those who care about such things, the photo was taken with a 70 mm Hasselblad camera with an 80 mm lens. Apollo 17 was the last manned lunar mission, so no human beings have since been far enough out into space to take another picture that shows the whole globe. Because of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) insistence on de-emphasizing the role of any one crew member in space missions, the photograph is credited to the entire flight team: Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Jack Schmit. It is still not known for certain who actually took what might be the most famous photograph in the history of the medium.