, 12:112
Date: 28 Apr 2011

The blue marble

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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-emphasi