Brain Pickings

November 14, 1963: The First-Ever Footage from Space


“Through the magic of the camera, earthlings take their first ride into space.”

On November 14, 1963, the Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile shot into space from the South Atlantic at 17,000 miles per hour. This unmanned booster would eventually carry the Gemini space capsules, NASA’s second manned mission to space, succeeding Mercury and preceding Apollo. But what made that fateful November morning particularly noteworthy was something else: Mounted on the second stage of the missile was a camera that offered a preview of what the astronauts would see from space and provided the first-ever footage from the cosmos.

This vintage newsreel captures the historic moment in 59 seconds:

The curvature of the Earth is plainly visible. Through the magic of the camera, earthlings take their first ride into space.

This humble yet monumental black-and-white clip comes as a particularly poignant testament to our progress on the eve of NASA’s big Cassini reveal — an extraordinary mosaic of images captured with Cassini’s bleeding-edge cameras aimed at Saturn, including a view of Carl Sagan’s legendary “pale blue dot” and the first-ever view of the Earth and Moon in a single image viewed from the outer Solar System:

For more awe at our continuous cosmic adventure, see this visual history of space in 250 milestones.

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