National Geographic : 1966 Nov
Better pictures were taken from altitudes as high as 158 miles by the Navy's Viking rockets in 1954 and 1955, but they were shot at such oblique angles that they gave little useful geological information. Television from space began in 1960 with the first of the successful Tiros weather satellites. These were fol lowed in 1964 and 1966 by the far more advanced Nim bus satellites. Together they have produced well over a million pictures. Nimbus circles the globe in a polar orbit, so each day it sees the entire 197 million square miles of earth rotating beneath it. A single Nimbus photograph covers a million square miles. Oddly enough, these pictures from altitudes of 250 to 600 miles reveal very little evidence of civilization. From that high up, you cannot see New York City, or Los An geles, or Tokyo. Even the world's longest bridges and the most elaborate networks of highways fail to appear in these photographs taken by unmanned satellites and televised to earth. Indeed, except for three items-a jet contrail, a single highway cut through Tennessee forest land, and a geometric pattern of snow-filled logging swaths in Canada-no clues in the 27,000 pictures taken by the first Nimbus suggest man's presence on earth. This is one reason for scientists' caution in interpreting the Mariner 4 photographs of Mars. A similar probe of earth by hypothetical Martians might provide little evidence of life, and none at all of intelligent beings. Future manned space flights will test new films, differ ent types of cameras, and new radar and infra-red scan ning devices. Such flights will enable astronauts to see and photograph earth from a wide range of distances, all the way out to the moon, a quarter of a million miles away. Already, an unmanned U. S. satellite has given us the first portrait of our earth as a planet in space-the historic picture taken last August 23 while Lunar Orbiter circled the moon. THE END WESTERN AUSTRALIA "I can see it!" exulted Astro naut Schirra on spying the Car narvon tracking station on the delta of the Gascoyne River at lower left. Approaching Aus tralia, where the kangaroo roams (left), Gemini 6 flies over pencil-thin islands in the mouth of Shark Bay and smaller Den ham Sound. SPerth, 500 miles south, turned Carnarvon r, or on all its lights to welcome John Shark ETERN Glenn on his historic space ven Sture in 1962-America's first .. Geraldton manned orbital flight. 670 EKTACHROMEBY NASA; KODACHROME(LEFT) BY ROBERTF. SISSON () N.G.!