First photo of Earth from space

It was grainy, black and white, and low resolution, providing more symbolic value than actual, but the picture was a significant start to America’s space program. There was little interest in rocketry in America before WW II — in fact, one of biggest American contributors to the science, Charles Goddard, was mocked for his theory by the New York Times (on the other hand, the Germans in the early 1930s found his research invaluable). Post WW II was a different story, as the U.S. Army trucked out loads of captured V2 rockets to White Sands, New Mexico, to test both their military and exploration applications.

On this day, October 24, in 1946, in one exploration experiment the U.S. attached a 35mm camera to a modified V2 rocket that blasted off into space and returned back down with the steel-encased camera still intact. What they got was the first ever picture of the Earth from space.

Tthe V2 photo was taken from an altitude of 65 miles, five times as high as the previous record, from a weather balloon. The engineer who developed the camera, Clyde Holliday, wrote in National Geographic he could envision a system one day of similar rocket-mounted cameras scouting enemy territory in war, mapping inaccessible regions of the earth in peacetime, and even photographing cloud formations, storm fronts, and overcast areas over an entire continent in a few hours.” He dared say it was even possible that “the entire land area of the globe might be mapped in this way.”