On Monday a NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory sent back a new photo of planet Earth. It's been years and years since the famed "Blue Marble" photo was taken from Apollo 17.
The photo was taken using NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera and put together as seen above by combining three separate images to give us this view of the sunlit side of Earth from the vantage point of 1 million miles away. Pretty cool, right? And this is only the first of many images we're set to get from the Deep Space Climate Observatory.
The Deep Space Climate Observatory is a combined project for NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force that was launched in February aboard a SpaceX rocket. The main point of the project is to monitor solar wind, which should help the NOAA researchers provide more spot-on forecasts for geomagnetic storms, the nasty ones that mess with power grids and disrupt infrastructure. NASA also plans to use the cameras on board Deep Space Climate Observatory to look at atmosphere and plant growth on the ground and to measure ozone levels — all useful Earth science-type stuff. There will also be lots of photos of Earth itself looking all pretty like it does in this first one.
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NASA's timing is pretty interesting. Back in May there was a significant push from the Republicans to slash NASA's Earth science funding (because of climate change studies, of course.) In fact, there's been a lot of discussion over the past few years over whether NASA should be pursuing Earth sciences or planetary exploration — the Democrats have tended to lean toward Earth sciences and the Republicans toward exploration, with both sides trying to choke off the funding for the pursuits they don't like — but looking at this photo, it's hard to say that it's not worth the money to get this new view of our own planet. At the same time, last week's images from Pluto are a strong argument in favor of continuing to look outward. It's pretty nifty that NASA just so happened to release these images within a week of each other. We can't wait to see more.