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Vintage snaps from space history

By James Dacey

1966 Lunar Orbiter picture of the Earth and Moon

1966 Lunar Orbiter picture of the Earth and Moon. (Courtesy: UCL)

If you look incredibly closely you may just be able to make out John Lennon’s flares or the England football team lifting the World Cup. This portrait of our planet from 1966 is part of the first collection of photos of the Earth taken from beyond the Moon. It was taken by a camera on board Lunar Orbiter I, the first US spacecraft to orbit the Moon, which helped pave the way for the Moon landings at the end of the decade.

The photo is part of a historic archive of space images that has just been published online by University College London (UCL). Other gems in the collection include Soviet photos of the surface of Venus, hand-assembled mosaics of Jupiter’s moons, and an incredibly detailed map of the Moon produced by the British amateur astronomer Walter Goodacre. The images were received from NASA and other agencies, which used to send hard copies of its images to selected academic institutions before the age of online archives.

The unveiling of this archive is part of the Festival of the Planets, which is running 8–13 September in London. Other festival activities include a sci-fi film night, a cabaret show and space busking.

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  1. ZoloftNotWorking

    Wow! I haven’t seen this image since I was 19! I was always fascinated by the Lunar Orbiter mission because it represented cutting-edge technology. The images taken were all collected on a long sequential strip of film. The film was developed automatically on board the craft and then scanned from beginning to end by a “Flying Spot Scanner”. This technology was used in the early 50s and we have it to thank for the “Honeymooners” TV program that’s still popular today. Essentially, a small video display tube illuminated the strip of film in a raster pattern ( You can see the raster repeats along the the length of the image; In this case, the vertical dimension is the length ), and transmitted to Earth!

  2. Trackback: Thank Furcoat it’s Friday | Fur Coat, No Knickers

  3. jim



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