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The 1972 Moment: Perspectives on Earth

Apollo 17 astronaut seen next to American flag with Earth in the sky above

Images from spaceflight change our idea of humanity’s place in the universe.

In 1966 activist Stewart Brand began a campaign for NASA to release an image of the whole Earth in space. Brand even made up buttons that asked, “Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the Whole Earth yet?” He sold them on college campuses and mailed them to prominent scientists, futurists, and legislators. Not until the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, however, did “Whole Earth” become a reality.

Apollo 17’s geologist astronaut, Harrison Schmitt, finally captured an image of the Earth, alone in a black void, without any solar shadow. Stewart Brand put the photograph on the cover of his Whole Earth Catalog, first created in 1968. This image, and the other stunning photographs of the Earth taken from space, inspired a reconsideration of our place in the universe by artists, environmentalists, and people around the world.

Photo credit: NASA