By: Brigitte Valcin, AmeriCorps Instructor & Volunteer Services Assistant
I recently took the opportunity to finally watch Hubble 3D. Of course, I didn’t watch it in 3D, because my laptop is ordinary. However, I’ve been told that it’s worth making a trip to the National Air and Space Museum to watch the film in 3D at an IMAX Theatre.
Hubble 3D is a documentary chronicling NASA’s 2009 mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. I learned quite a lot about NASA’s now-defunct Space Shuttle Program, which launched the Hubble Telescope in 1990, and the enormous contributions the Telescope has made to space exploration since then.
The best parts of the film are the extraordinary high-resolution images of the universe that Hubble has transmitted back to Earth. In recent decades, Hubble has given us hundreds of composites depicting planets in our own solar system, distant galaxies, and other stellar phenomena like nebulas and black holes. As a result, we have a greater understanding of how the universe works.
In the midst of contemplating humankind’s greatest technological achievements, I wondered if Hubble ever captures images of Earth. With a quick Google search, I discovered that the Telescope orbits just above Earth’s surface, making it nearly impossible to take clear pictures of our planet.
So who takes pictures of us? On August 8, 1967, the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft took the very first photo of Earth. We were next—very famously—photographed from the moon by astronauts during NASA’s Apollo program. More recently, the Landsat 8 satellite, launched February 11, 2013, was designed to continuously observe our planet and document atmospheric and topographic changes to the Earth’s surface.
I next wondered what D.C. looks like from space. A second Google search revealed that the most recent image of Washington, D.C., from space was taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station who decided to snap an image of the city to celebrate President Obama’s second inauguration.