By James Dacey
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.