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How NASA’s Longest Space Dweller Sees Earth

“Jeff’s Earth” chronicles veteran NASA astronaut Jeff Williams’ 2016 stint in space.

by Becky Ferreira
Jan 3 2017, 5:43pm

"Jeff's Earth." Video: NASA Johnson/YouTube

Earth was first imaged from outer space in 1946, with a Devry 35-millimeter motion picture camera strapped to a modest V-2 rocket. The photograph series was black-and-white and grainy, but our planet's serene beauty was obvious even then.

First photo of Earth from space, taken October 24, 1946. Image: US Army/White Sands Missile Range/Applied Physics Laboratory

Now, over 70 years later, spaceflight and imaging technologies have rocketed to new heights, and the human conception of Earth as one interlinked planetary entity has also undergone a revolution of its own.

Case in point: American astronaut Jeff Williams captured gorgeous 4K resolution footage of our world during his latest stint on the International Space Station (ISS), which lasted from March to September 2016.

To celebrate, NASA recently released a five-minute compilation of Williams' most scenic shots, entitled "Jeff's Earth," filmed with the ISS's ultra high definition Earth-viewing (HDEV) camera suite. You might want to take a look at the 1946 photo again, before diving into the lush panoramas captured in the video by Williams—the contrast is extraordinary.

"Jeff's Earth." Video: NASA Johnson/YouTube

Williams has spent more cumulative time in space than any American astronaut, logging 534 days over four separate missions, so he's developed a keen eye for capturing our planet's breathtaking scope and dazzling intricacies.

READ MORE: The Top 10 Scientific Discoveries that Renewed Our Faith in Humanity This Year

"To view the Earth from space, especially from a photographer's point of view—it's a target-rich environment," Williams says in the short film. "When you finish and you're back on the Earth, the memories diminish quickly. To capture the memories, to be able to bring back the experience to others [...] we can see it on a global scale and maybe grow in our appreciation of those things that are unique to Earth."

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