Seeing the Earth from above

First View of Earth from MoonThe image to the left is the first picture of Earth taken from the Moon. It was taken 45 years ago and now we are all used to seeing pictures of our home planet from space. Google maps gives you a satellite image of wherever you like, e.g., the University campus, in seconds. Some of these images are just stunning, like this image of the Southern lights (the Southern hemisphere version of the Northern lights aka Aurora Borealis) taken from the International Space Station.

What I didn’t realise until I started reading and enjoying The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes, is that it was only when balloons came along that people could see what our fields, cities etc, looked like from above. This was  in the late 1700s and so before the camera of course so there are no photos but artists did go up in the balloons, so we do have the first drawings of England from above.

I wonder what effect these first images of England from above had on people in the 1700s. In the 20th century, images of the Earth from space have been credited with making people more aware of our home being a small fragile and beautiful thing that we should not pollute too much. The images of Earth show that it is not infinite in size, and that we have nowhere else to go. The drawings from the 1700s are much less dramatic but still it must have a bit mind bending to see a river you have walked along many times seen from the perspective of a balloon 100s of metres above.