top of page
  • Peter Kramer

The Whole Earth: NASA’s “Blue Marble” Photograph Fifty Years On

Updated: Mar 7

In advance of this week's events, Peter Krämer, Senior Research Fellow at De Montfort University, provides an introduction to the Blue Marble photograph, its historical context, political significance and visual complexity.

The Whole Earth: NASA’s “Blue Marble” Photograph Fifty Years On

Peter Krämer[1]

On 7 December 1972, during their flight to the Moon, the crew of Apollo 17 took a photograph of the whole, evenly illuminated Earth surrounded by the blackness of space. It was released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Christmas Eve that year and came to be known as the “Blue Marble”.[2] Fifty years on, this is still one of the most highly regarded, most famous and most familiar pictures ever taken.

In fact, a whole mythology has grown around this photograph, making bold claims about its popularity and impact. Many of these claims are highly questionable. For example, the often-made statement that it is the most widely reproduced photograph in history is almost certainly wrong.[3]

When it comes to its alleged impact on American society and indeed humanity as a whole, we may well be dealing with a reversal of cause and effect. The image surely contributed to the rise of environmentalism, an increasing sense of global connectedness among people, and a deeper scientific understanding of the Earth, but it did so against the backdrop of developments already under way (see the first section of this article). In other words, the photograph did not so much cause changes than it crystallised developments across the years preceding its publication.

What is more, there is not one “Blue Marble” photograph, but there are many different versions (developed from the same negative) of the picture taken on 7 December 1972; and many very similar pictures were taken that day and in later years (see the second section of this article). When people comment on the “Blue Marble”, it is sometimes not at all clear which picture they are actually referring to.

And yet, despite all these complications, there is no doubt that the “Blue Marble” is inextricably connected with our view of the world today, our perception of space exploration and the so-called “Overview effect”,[4] of the environmental movement[5] and Earth System Science,[6] of our feelings of global belonging and responsibility,[7] and much more. One might go as far as saying that we have to understand the “Blue Marble” if we want to understand ourselves.

This introduction is meant to help us in this endeavour. It provides some basic information about the photograph and its historical context, references much of the scholarly literature on the “Blue Marble” and on visualisations of the whole Earth more generally, offers a preliminary close examination of (different versions of) the “Blue Marble” itself, and suggests avenues for future research. In fact, by providing references to a range of primary sources, this introduction might even encourage the reader to start doing original research straightaway.

Historical Context: Circa 1968-72

A host of complex, and often contradictory, developments were leading up to the “Blue Marble” picture being taken and released in December 1972 and making a big impact thereafter. A consideration of these developments could do worse than starting with the observation that the Apollo 17 mission was the last one that took human beings beyond Earth’s orbit (thus, in a sense, escaping the Earth’s gravity), and that the first time human beings had left the Earth’s orbit had also been immortalised with a famous photograph. It was taken on 24 December 1968 by William Anders of the Apollo 8 crew and came to be known as “Earthrise”, because it showed the shadowed Earth rising above the Moon’s surface.[8]

Earthrise photograph. NASA. 1968

All of humanity’s “manned” space exploration (that is, spaceflight with human beings) beyond Earth’s orbit in effect took place between those two photos – Earthrise and the Blue Marble – in a span of only four years.

Perhaps it is an all too convenient claim in this context but one is certainly tempted to declare this short period to be the most transformative in postwar American history because of the concentration within it of so many important events and developments to do not only with space exploration, but also with American and global politics, the environmental movement as well as new ways of thinking about and studying humanity and the Earth.[9] (As is the case for space exploration, some of these events are associated with iconic photographs.)

With regards to the importance of the years 1968-72 for American politics, one can point to the election of Richard Nixon in 1968 and the Watergate incident in 1972 which would eventually bring down the president after his re-election that year. There was the Tet offensive in January 1968 which was widely regarded as a turning point in the Vietnam War, and the signing of the Paris Peace Accord, ending the United States’ direct involvement in that war, just four weeks after the end of 1972.[10]

From 1968 to 1972, the anti-war movement was at its peak in the United States. African-American activism became in places more radical and an organised white backlash against Civil Rights legislation emerged. Racial violence, student protests and domestic political violence (from right and left) escalated. The “Gay Liberation Front” and the “American Indian Movement” were formed.

Following on from the foundation of the National Organization of Women in 1966, the women’s liberation movement increasingly became a force in national politics, launching new campaigns and media outlets (notably Ms. magazine, founded in 1971, the first regular issue with the iconic “Wonder Woman For President” cover being dated July 1972).[11]

Ms magazine, vol. 1, no. 1. (July 1972). Sourced at:

Such political developments went hand in hand with shifts in public opinion, whereby progressive/left-liberal attitudes spread from demographic niches (especially university students) into mainstream society.[12]

Under a Republican president, a Democrat-controlled Congress passed important new legislation to do with

- Civil Rights, building on the ground-breaking Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts of 1964/65,

- women’s rights (notably Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; the Equal Rights Amendment was approved by the House of Representatives in 1971 and by the Senate in 1972 but was never ratified by the state legislatures) and

- environmental protection (among others, the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969, the Clean Air Act in 1970 [a revision of the Clean Air Act of 1963] and the Clean Water Act in 1972).[13]

The Supreme Court’s decision in the Roe v. Wade abortion case, which had been initiated in 1969, was just three weeks away at the end of 1972.

The modern environmental movement which, it is often said, was initiated by the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 (similar to the dating of so-called second wave feminism to the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963), had already reshaped public opinion by the late 1960s with large majorities expressing their concern about pollution and related issues.[14]

This led to the first Earth Day in 1970 (celebrated across the United States and indeed around the world),[15] which coincided, as already mentioned, with ground-breaking US legislation. The environmental movement became a force in global politics with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, the very first of its kind, in Stockholm in 1972 (the detailed planning for this conference having started in 1968).[16]

Also in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a period of unprecedented postwar economic growth in the US (and elsewhere) came to an end, ushering in a period of so-called “stagflation” (characterised by low growth, high unemployment and high inflation).

At the same time, connected with both environmentalism and the space programme, new metaphors for natural limits to the development, and for the resultant fragility, of human societies circulated widely, not least through catchily entitled books: The Population Bomb (by Paul R. Ehrlich, 1968), Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (by Buckminster Fuller, 1969)[17] and The Limits to Growth (by Donella H. Meadows at al, 1972). There was also the Whole Earth Catalog, published regularly from 1968 to 1972 (and only occasionally thereafter); its first edition featured a “whole Earth” photograph from 1967.[18]

Photograph by NASA's ATS III satellite (November 1967). Appeared on the cover of the first issue of the Whole Earth Catalog (1968).

In 1973, economist E. F. Schumacher brought out a collection of his essays under the title Small is Beautiful. That year also saw the beginning of the so-called “oil crisis” (or “energy crisis”), not only in the US but also worldwide. In many ways, this crisis seemed to prove that societies around the whole Earth were interconnected and there were indeed limits to growth, that populations and their consumption levels had grown too much, that humans on spaceship Earth could easily run out of fuel, that smallness might indeed be preferable.[19]

In this context it is worth pointing out that when asked, in surveys, about their current situation and their future prospects, by the early 1970s Americans had lost some of their contentment and optimism of the 1950s and 1960s (and they would never fully recover it).[20] Also, while increasingly aware of the environmental damage caused by their consumerist life-styles and all kinds of limits to its further enhancement (or even to its simple maintenance), most Americans had apparently become so used to high levels of consumption (and hence resource use) since World War II that there was no sustained effort to reduce them. Indeed, this particular aspect of the American way of life was becoming an aspirational model for many, if not most, societies around the globe – with dire ecological consequences.

In December 1968, the American ecologist Garrett Hardin published what became one of the most often cited essays not only in ecology, “The Tragedy of the Commons”.[21] The essay had extremely stark policy implications which Hardin elaborated in two essays on “lifeboat ethics” in 1974.[22] Hardin argued that in certain situations it was counterproductive to try to help the desperately poor and indeed better to let them starve.

In sharp contrast the Australian philosopher Peter Singer argued in his influential 1971 essay “Famine, Affluence and Morality”[23] that it was everyone’s moral obligation to help those worst off. In 1975 he expanded his argument about moral obligations to animals in his book Animal Liberation,[24] building on previous publications, notably by Richard Ryder in the early 1970s.[25]

In addition to such divergent conceptions of ethics in a globalised world (whereby people in one part of the world are, or can be, aware of the living conditions of people elsewhere and also of the realities, and possibilities, of direct or indirect interaction with them),[26] the late 1960s and early 1970s also saw the consolidation of a fully integrated scientific view of the Earth, presented under the intriguing name “Gaia hypothesis”.

This was the foundation of what would become known as Earth System Science. Here the planet is conceptualised as a self-regulating system made up of the interaction between life forms and their inorganic surroundings. Arising from his work for NASA on the detection of life on Mars in the 1960s, this view was influentially presented by James Lovelock in two articles in 1972 and 1974 (the latter article jointly written with Lynn Margulis).[27]

Last but not least, the painful awareness that human civilisation could be destroyed at any moment in a nuclear war, which had come to the fore especially during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, was counteracted by successful Cold War nuclear diplomacy. This led to the Hot Line Agreement and the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963, the Outer Space Treaty (1967), the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968), the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1972) and the Interim Agreement on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (1972). With regards to the threat of nuclear war, by 1972 the world could rightly be seen as a much safer place than it had been in 1962 (whereby Nixon’s historic visit to China that year also helped to improve relations between nuclear powers).[28]

But, as pointed out earlier, increased awareness of global problems such as environmental destruction, population growth in conjunction with increased resource use per capita as well as instances of extreme poverty and famine meant that by and large détente between nuclear powers did not necessarily lead to an improvement in people’s outlook on the world around them (at least not in the United States).

This then is the historical context from which the “Blue Marble” photograph emerged and into which it was released. In the years before its release, the Earth had, in many respects, become smaller in people’s perceptions and experiences, in philosophy and science, and the connections between people in different countries, between people and their environments, and between all life forms and their inorganic surroundings had become more obvious.

With the exception of the positive impact of nuclear détente, human societies and ecological systems seemed more fragile than ever before, with threats to their continued health, or even their existence, becoming ever more obvious. Opposing, and often extreme, views about the political and ethical implications of this state of affairs developed, ranging from exclusionary “lifeboat ethics” to a very inclusive sense of responsibility for all humans as well as animals and other forms of life.

Before exploring how the “Blue Marble” photograph can be analysed, both in and of itself and in relation to this historical context, it is worth stepping back and taking a closer look at the most basic question of all: What is the “Blue Marble” photograph?

The Many Versions of the “Blue Marble” Photograph

One way to identify the so-called “Blue Marble” photograph is to say that it is the picture NASA gave the identification number AS17-148-22727. A recent Google search for “NASA photograph AS17-148-22727” first brought up an unfamiliar image on “Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth”, a website run by NASA.[29] This image[30] appears to be close to what the photograph looked like when the film brought back from space was first developed. The webpage provides the option to zoom in on parts of this picture with the cursor which reveals a lot of otherwise largely imperceptible details.

AS17-148-22727. The Blue Marble when it was first developed. Sourced at:

The webpage also provides access to alternative versions under the heading “Resolutions offered for this picture”, plus there is a tab labelled “Download options”. One of the download options is a request for “Raw file from camera”, which is probably the closest one can get to the “original”. In this way many different versions of the same photograph (varying in terms of resolution, orientation, cropping, colouring etc.) can be accessed; they are all numbered AS17-148-22727. Although some versions definitely look more familiar than others, it is difficult to determine which version has been used most widely in various media, and which version(s) were initially released in 1972.

Using the search option on the NASA homepage[31] for “Blue Marble” leads to over 22,000 entries.[32] These entries consist of texts with and without pictures, and contain not just various versions of AS17-148-22727 but also many other photographs of the whole Earth. Limiting the search to “images” leads to three versions of AS17-148-22727, plus three other photographs of the whole Earth from 2005 and 2012 (the one from 2005 shows all of the Earth’s surface – in a sense this is the only one that really shows the “whole” Earth, the others only showing half of it), a poster and photographs to do with Blue Marble Awards ceremonies.[33]

An image from 2005 that literally captures the Whole Earth. Sourced at:

Two of the three versions of AS17-148-22727 are presented with the caption that had accompanied the photograph when it was first released: and From now on I want refer to these two images as the “official” (and probably most widely used) versions of AS17-148-22727.

The "official" Blue Marbles

So as to add to potential confusion about the 1972 “Blue Marble” photograph, AS17-148-22727 was part of a series (AS17-148-22727 to AS17-148-22731) of in some cases virtually indistinguishable pictures taken at the same time.[34] It is safe to assume that relatively few people will be familiar with the “original” photograph AS17-148-22727[35] before it was further processed. Many more people will know the images resulting from various ways of processing this original; and even more people will know whole Earth photographs which are more or less similar to these versions but are based on different negatives from 1972 or later years.

Doing a Google search for “Blue Marble photograph” first brings up the Wikipedia entry, the main illustration for which (in the top right-hand corner) is one of the pictures from the NASA website,[36] yet clicking on it leads to a differently cropped version of the picture (with a lot more black surrounding the globe);[37] this in turn leads into the gallery of all images used in the Wikipedia entry.

A differently cropped Blue Marble in the Wikipedia entry

More Blue Marbles (2001 and 2002).

Despite their different looks and the fact that they were made across several decades, all of these pictures are labelled “Blue Marble”. This designation thus does not so much refer to (versions of) NASA photograph AS17-148-22727 but a certain type, or genre, of Earth photography. This also becomes obvious when one carries out an “Images” search on Google for “Blue Marble photograph”.[38]

When shown one of these photographs, few people would be certain about, or even interested in, the answer to the question whether it is a version of AS17-148-22727. And when asked about the “Blue Marble” picture, they might refer to any of the many photographs from various decades carrying the “Blue Marble” label. In other words: for research purposes it might make sense to refer to the “Blue Marble” photograph (that is, AS17-148-22727 in its multiple versions) but not with regards to people’s general ideas about “Blue Marble” images of the Earth.

Analysing the 1972 “Blue Marble” Photograph(s)

Keeping the above comments about the many different versions of the photograph in mind, we can now identify several levels of discussing AS17-148-22727:[39]

a) an analysis of the content and aesthetics of the official photograph as originally published (presumably in two versions: and,[40]

b) a reconstruction of how this picture was taken, processed and released (including the text accompanying the photograph) by NASA, also of how, when and why NASA published versions of AS17-148-22727 other than and,[41]

c) a comparison between the different versions of AS17-148-22727,

d) a comparison of the official Blue Marble photograph with previous, and also later, photographs of the (whole or partial) Earth,[42]

e) a comparison with previous – and also with later – representations of the Earth (in the form of drawings, paintings, maps,[43] globes,[44] films,[45] television,[46] etc.),[47]

f) an analysis of initial responses (in the press and elsewhere) to, and of uses of, the official photograph,

g) a reconstruction of when and how the photograph became associated with the phrase “the blue marble”,

h) an analysis of the connotations, and previous as well as concurrent uses, of this phrase,

i) a discussion of the various contexts in which the picture was initially used (in the press, on posters etc.),[48] and

j) a discussion of the various contexts in which the picture and the phrase “blue marble” has been used ever since.[49]

With regards to a) – that is the content and aesthetic analysis of the official photograph ( and – it is perhaps worth making a few initial observations. The globe dominates the image rather than the surrounding blackness of space of which very little is seen.

Given all the talk about our “blue” planet (and the designation “blue marble”), the globe is actually to a large extent white (due to cloud and snow/ice cover) and reddish-brown; one can still say that overall blue dominates but only just.

At the centre of the image is the bit of ocean between the East coast of Africa and the island of Madagascar, which seems random rather than being a significant compositional feature. The landmasses dominating the picture are Africa and the Arabian peninsula in the upper half – that is, the places where the human species and (one of) its civilisation(s) originated – and Antarctica in the lower half, that is the, for humans, harshest land environment. The huge Asian landmass is only hinted at along the top right curvature of the globe and the Americas and Europe (that is, “the West”) are not visible at all.

The colour green, which is so closely associated with life, is only faintly hinted at; the globe in this picture would appear to be dominated by water, ice cover and desert. Hence, there is neither any sense of smallness and fragility (because the globe so clearly dominates the frame in most published versions of the photograph), nor of a web of life or indeed any form of aliveness (unless one has specialist knowledge about the connection between life forms and a planet’s retention of water and its development of a certain kind of atmosphere).

Initial thoughts about points g) and h) – to do with the name the picture acquired – point in a similar direction. It seems that astronauts used this phrase (but when exactly, and did they conceivably refer to pre-1972 views of the Earth from space?), and it then quickly entered popular culture.

A preliminary examination of newspaper databases suggests that the most prominent use of the phrase was in an American children’s television programme about the lives of children around the world entitled The Big Blue Marble, the opening sequence of which starts with a blueish image of the whole Earth (not one of the versions of AS17-148-22727), followed by children playing with blue marbles.[50] The series ran from 1974 to 1983, and it focused on creating a sense of global connectedness among children, of a unity of humankind.[51] In addition to illustrating such unity, the credit sequence presents the Earth as a beautiful object, which is quite literally a children’s plaything.

This also becomes obvious in an initial investigation into the meanings and associations of the phrase “blue marble”. A good starting point are dictionary (notably the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s free online dictionary) and Wikipedia entries for “marble”. Particularly noteworthy is the following meaning: “a little ball made of a hard substance (such as glass) and used in various games”.[52] The phrase “blue marble” thus suggests a dead object, a beautiful plaything, and not at all a habitat for life.

A Google search for “blue marble stone” and “blue marble sculpture” reveals the common usage of the phrase “blue marble” with regards to building materials and art. This must have long preceded its association with the photograph of the whole Earth.

It would be very interesting to compare the meanings of “blue marble” with those of “Mother Earth” and “Mother Nature”; according to the Oxford English Dictionary, both phrases have been used, since the 16th century, to personify our planet or, more generally, all of nature as a woman giving and guiding life (also see, of course, the Greek goddess Gaia).[53]

This would appear to be in sharp contrast with the meanings of the phrase “blue marble” and of the photograph so named which are more in line with the implications of Archimedes’s famous statement: “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth.”[54] The Earth is an object to be manipulated by (male) humans.

It should also be noted, however, that there is a strong sense of connectedness and indivisible unity as well as robustness and permanence underpinning the photograph, its name and many of its uses. The marble globe shows no trace of humans and even less of human borders; it has long preceded the emergence of humanity and will persist with or without humans. These are perhaps rather humbling thoughts, which have diverse implications for how we might see human history and humanity’s very existence (and possible extinction).


[1] I should point out that I am a film historian with a particular interest in 1960s and 1970s Hollywood and in cultural, social and political history. While I am also interested in (the history of) science and technology and philosophy, I am by no means an expert in these areas. For convenience sake, I often reference Wikipedia entries which I have found to be mostly reliable and well documented. The present text is not in any way aspiring to be definitive; on the contrary it is meant to be introductory and exploratory. [2] A useful introduction is provided by See for what is probably the most widely used version of the picture. Also see; the text beneath this picture is the only one I could find giving the date when NASA released the picture. More about different versions of this picture below. [3] See, for example, the Wikipedia entry “List of photographs considered to be most important”, which collates information from a wide range of surveys ( Also see the top results for the Google search “most reproduced photo in history”. [4] The “Overview Effect” refers first and foremost to the (potentially) transformative experience of astronauts seeing the Earth from space, but also to the experience of other people who actually or vicariously have viewed the Earth in this way (a recent example would be William Shatner’s reflections on his short spaceflight: Note that the original hardback edition of Frank White’s The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1987) features the Blue Marble picture on its cover ( For more information on the Overview Effect see,the%20Earth%20from%20outer%20space. [5] For example, the Wikipedia entry for “Environmentalism” features the Blue Marble photograph ( [6] See A search for “Earth System Science” on Google Books reveals that many volumes about this topic have a full or partial blueish globe on their covers. More on Earth System Science below. [7] For example, most editions of Peter Singer’s 2002 book One World: The Ethics of Globalization have a Blue Marbleish picture on the cover; see [8] See For a discussion of the photograph and its historical context see Robert Poole, Earthrise: How Man First Saw the Earth, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. [9] In this context it is worth mentioning that parallel to the heightened focus on space exploration, the late 1960s and early 1970s saw important developments with regards to research into, and public debates about, what is usually called “unidentified flying objects” which many Americans believed to be associated with extraterrestrial intelligent beings. After the official Condon Report concluded in 1968 that there was nothing out of the ordinary in UFO sightings (that is, they could mostly be explained very easily without invoking aliens), the Air Force’s long-term research programme Project Blue Book was shut down in 1969. The astronomer J. Allen Hynek, who had worked for Project Blue Book, was dissatisfied with this, and published his own, very different findings in the 1972 book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry (which in turn informed the 1977 Steven Spielberg movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind). In 1973, he founded the Center for UFO Studies. Other key organisations from this period included the Midwest UFO Network (founded in 1969) and the so-called “invisible college”, an informal network of researchers who by and large wished to remain anonymous; their figurehead Jacques Vallee (most probably the inspiration for the Francois Truffaut character in Close Encounters) published a book about it in 1975: The Invisible College: What a Group of Scientists Has Discovered About UFO Influence on the Human Race. For a recent discussion, see D. W. Pasulka, American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. With regards to the somewhat more mainstream search, through radio astronomy, for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) out there in space rather than on this planet, it can be noted that the high point of NASA’s involvement was the late 1960s and early 1970s; Stephen J. Garber, “Searching for Good Science: The Cancellation of NASA’s SETI Program”, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, vol. 52 (1999), p. 4. [10] For what are arguably the two most iconic photographs to do with the Vietnam war, see “Saigon Execution” from February 1968 and “The Terror of War” from June 1972; and [11] See [12] William G. Mayer, The Changing American Mind: How and Why American Public Opinion Changed between 1960 and 1988, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993; Daniel Yankelovich, The New Morality: A Profile of American Youth in the 1970s, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974. [13] Cp. [14] Hazel Erskine, “The Polls: Pollution and Its Costs”, Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 36, no. 1 (1972), pp. 120-35. [15] Earth Day gave rise to another iconic picture, a Pogo cartoon used on a widely distributed poster: “We have met the enemy and he is us”; see [16] See The first planning document from July 1968 can be found here: [17] The phrase “Spaceship Earth” had already been used in the titles of articles and books in the years before 1969, and there had been earlier variants as well; 1972 saw the release of the documentary Survival of Spaceship Earth. See and,_Baroness_Jackson_of_Lodsworth#Selected_works. [18] The picture can be found here: See the whole edition, which includes additional uses of this photograph, at Some later editions used “Earthrise”. Many editions of the other books mentioned in this paragraph had more or less stylised images of the globe on their covers. [19] These concerns were not new in the United States but had been around for decades; see Thomas Robertson, The Malthusian Moment: Global Population Growth and the Birth of American Environmentalism, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2012. [20] Everett Carl Ladd and Karlyn H. Bowman, What’s Wrong: A Survey of American Satisfaction and Complaint, Washington, D.C.: The AEI Press, 1998, esp. 28, 31, 44-46; Joseph Veroff, Elizabeth Douvan, E. and Richard A. Kulka, (1981) The Inner American: A Self-Portrait from 1957 to 1976, New York: Basic Books, 1981, pp. 55-8, 77, 88-9, 528-9, 533-4. [21] Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons”, Science, 13 December 1968, pp. 1243-8. [22] Garrett Hardin, “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor”, Psychology Today, September 1974, pp. 38-43; Garrett Hardin, “Living on a Lifeboat”, BioScience, vol. 24, no. 10 (October 1974), pp. 561-8. [23] Peter Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”, Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 1, no. 3 (1972), pp. 229-43. It was pointed out to me by a philosopher that in this context one might also want to consider the publication of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice in 1971. [24] See Singer had used the phrase “animal liberation” for the title of a review essay published in April 1973 ( [25] See [26] One technology contributing to the development of a global consciousness was the live satellite broadcast. The first production transmitted around the world was the BBC’s “Our World” in 1967, including segments produced in nineteen different countries and seen by up to 20% of the world’s population ( The live broadcast of the Moon landing two years later was seen by a similar number of people; on this and the relationship between television and the Apollo programme, see Lorenz Engell, “Apollo TV: The Copernican Turn of the Gaze”, World Picture, vol. 7 (Autumn 2012),; and Michael Allen, Live from the Moon: Film, Television and the Space Race, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2009. To capture the idea that people around the globe were ever more closely connected, Marshall McLuhan had already introduced the idea of a “global village” in 1959 (according to the Oxford English Dictionary). Importantly, the networking of computers in distant locations, which would eventually result in the internet, was first developed from 1966 onwards, with the so-called ARPANET becoming operational in 1971 (ARPA being the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the United States Department of Defense; [27] James Lovelock, “Gaia as Seen Through the Atmosphere”, Atmospheric Environment, vol. 6, no. 8 (August 1972), pp. 579-80; James Lovelock and Lynn Margulies, “Atmospheric Homeostasis by and for the Biosphere: The Gaia Hypothesis”, Tellus, vol. 26 (1974), pp. 1-10. [28] Of course, the (internal and external) politics of nuclear powers were by no means relaxed. For example, China, which had become a nuclear power in 1964, was in the throes of the so-called “Cultural Revolution” from 1966 to 1976, during which period it was also involved in wars and border clashes involving Vietnam, India and the Soviet Union. Among other things, the Soviet Union (together with other Eastern bloc countries) invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968 to suppress political reforms in that country. Israel became a nuclear power at some point in the 1960s and was involved in several wars between 1967 and 1973. [29] See [30] See [31] See [32] See [33] See [34] See [35] That is, [36] See [37] See [38] See [39] The existing scholarly literature on AS17-148-22727 and closely related “Blue Marble” or “Whole Earth” photographs and non-photographic images is rich and diverse. See, for example, the following (in chronological order): Yaakov Jerome Garb, “The Use and Misuse of the Whole Earth Image”, Whole Earth Review, March 1985, pp. 18-25; Denis Cosgrove, “Contested Global Visions: One-World, Whole-Earth, and the Apollo Space Photographs”, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 84, no.2 (1994), pp. 270-94; Wolfgang Sachs, “The Blue Marble: An Ambiguous Modern Icon”, The Ecologist, vol. 24, no. 5 (September-October 1994), pp. 170-75; Denis Cosgrove, Apollo’s Eye: A Cartographic Genealogy of the Earth in the Western Imagination, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001; Holly Henry and Amanda Taylor, “Re-Thinking Apollo: Envisioning Environmentalism in Space”, Sociological Review, vol. 57, no. 1, Supplement (2009), pp. 190-203; Benjamin Lazier, “Earthrise; or, The Globalization of the World Picture”, American Historical Review, vol. 116, no. 3 (2012), pp. 602-30; Sheila Jasanoff, Science and Public Reason, London: Routledge, 2012, pp. 78-102; Donald J. Wuebbels, “Celebrating the ‘Blue Marble’”, EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, vol. 93, no. 49 (4 December 2012), pp. 509-10; Joana Brás Varanda Marques and Luciana Salazar Salgado, "The Blue Marble: A Discourse Analysis of Images of the Earth Published on the APOD website", paper presented at the 13th Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference, Salvador (Brazil), 5-8 May 2014,; Thomas M. Lekan, “Fractal Eaarth: Visualizing the Global Environment in the Anthropocene”, Environmental Humanities, vol. 5 (2014), pp. 171-201; Robert Poole, “What Was Whole About the Whole Earth”, The Surveillance Imperative: The Rise of the Geosciences during the Cold War and Beyond, ed. Simone Turchetti and Peder Roberts, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp. 213-36; Sebastian W. Hoggenmüller, "Die Welt im (Außen-)Blick: Überlegungen zu einer ästhetischen Re/Konstruktionsanalyse am Beispiel der Weltraumfotografie ‘Blue Marble ‘”, ZQF–Zeitschrift für Qualitative Forschung , vol. 17, nos. 1-2 (2016), pp. 11-40; Solvejg Nitzke and Nicolas Pehtes (eds), Imagining Earth: Concepts of Wholeness in Cultural Constructions of Our Home Planet, Bielefeld: transcript, 2017; Neil M. Maher, “Whole Earth without Borders: Earth Photographs, Space Data, and the Importance of Visual Culture within Environmental History”, A Field on Fire: The Future of Environmental History, ed. Mark D. Hersey, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2019, pp. 189-208; Sergi Gonzalez, “The Weather of the Blue Marble”, Weather, vol. 75, no. 11 (2020), pp. 366-7; Brooke Belisle, “Whole World Within Reach: Google Earth VR”, Journal of Visual Culture, vol. 19, no. 1 (2020), pp. 112-36, esp. 118-22; Charlotte Kent, “Reclaiming Vision: Looking at Berger’s Ways of Seeing and NASA’s Blue Marble”, Visual Studies, 2021, pp. 1-10. [40] For detailed analyses, see for example Hoggenmüller, "Die Welt im (Außen-)Blick”, Gonzalez, “The Weather of the Blue Marble” and Kent, “Reclaiming Vision”. [41] See, for example, Marques and Salgado, “The Blue Marble”. In this context various NASA websites might be useful; see, for example, and [42] See, for example, the following timeline of key photographs: Also see and the following two picture books: Kevin W. Kelley, The Home Planet, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1988 (which includes photographs from the Soviet space programme) and Piers Bizony, Moonshots: 50 Years of NASA Space Exploration Seen Through Hasselblad Cameras, Beverly, MA: Quarto, 2017. Furthermore, there are NASA image archives for all Apollo missions as well as earlier space missions; see and [43] More or less speculative maps of the whole Earth go back over two thousand years ( [44] Globes, as physical objects, go back over five hundred years (,his%20journeys%20to%20the%20West). [45] Among the more intriguing examples of representations of the whole Earth in the cinema is the Universal logo which featured a globe from 1912/13 onwards; see and Also see, for example, Adrian Ivakhiv, “The Age of the World Motion Picture: Cosmic Visions in the Post-Earthrise Era”, The Changing World Religion Map: Sacred Places, Identities, Practices and Politics, ed. Stanley D. Brunn, Dordrecht: Springer, 2015, pp. 129-45; Peter Krämer “From 2001: A Space Odyssey to Avatar: Reflections on Cultural Impact and Academic Research”, Screening the Past, no. 42 (October 2017),; and Matthew I. Thompson, “Cinematic Arkitecture: Silent Running and the Spaceship Earth Metaphor”, New Review of Film and Television Studies, vol. 18, no. 3 (2020), pp. 249-74. More generally, see Tiago de Luca, Planetary Cinema: Film, Media and the Earth, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2022. [46] In the late 1960s and early 1970s, hundreds of millions of people watched live television broadcasts from space, which included shots of the Earth. This must be considered a primary context for understanding the impact of whole Earth photographs. See Engell, “Apollo TV”, and Allen, Live from the Moon. [47] See especially Cosgrove, “Contested Global Visions”. Cp. Sachs, “The Blue Planet”; Poole, “What Was Whole About the Whole Earth”; and several chapters in Nitzke and Pehtes, Imagining Earth, especially the chapter by Hania Siebenpfeiffer (pp. 113-37). [48] On this and the next point, see especially Maher, “Whole Earth without Borders”. [49] A Google search for “blue marble” brings up an astonishing range of references, mostly to company names, it seems. An odd example is a teaching project which deals with science and images of the Earth but does not appear to use the actual Blue Marble photograph; Catherine L. Muller et al., “The Blue Marble: A Model for Primary School STEM Outreach”, Physics Education, vol. 48, no. 2 (March 2013), pp. 176-83. For a prominent example of using the photograph in the context of a scholarly discussion of climate change, see James McCarthy, “Reflection On: Our Planet and Its Life, Origins and Futures (Presidential Address)”, Science, vol. 326, 18 December 2009, pp. 1646-55. Also see references to the photograph in Belisle, “Whole World Within Reach”, an essay on Google Earth VR (Virtual Reality); and in Gregory A. Petsko, “The Blue Marble”, Genome Biology, vol. 12, article no. 112 (2011), a discussion of iconic pictures and the public profile of science. [50] See An early article about the programme was illustrated with a black-and-white low-resolution picture captioned “The ‘Blue Marble’”, which looks like a somewhat distorted version of AS17-148-22727; see “One World: ’74 Version”, Broadcasting, 6 May 1974, p. 42. [51] See On the series’ impact on American children and their perception of children in other countries, see Donald F. Roberts et al, “Earth’s a Big Blue Marble: A Report of the Impact of a Children’s Television Series on Children’s Opinions”, Institute for Communication Research, Stanford University, 1974, [52] See [53] Cp. Dennis E. Jelinski, “There is No Mother Nature – There is No Balance of Nature: Culture, Ecology and Conservation”, Human Ecology, vol. 33, no. 2 (April 2005), pp. 271-88. [54] See

77 views0 comments
bottom of page