5 First of Their Kind Space Photos
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Is this the first space selfie? As the technology becomes more sophisticated, so photos taken in space are becoming more beautiful and awe-inspiring. However, even space photography and imaging had to start somewhere. Here then are five of the most incredible first-ever photos taken about or in space:
Photo of the First Animal in Space
By the late 1950s, the US and USSR were locked in a frantic ‘Space Race’. It was the Soviets that launched the first-ever living animal into space. Her name was Laika and she was the dog strapped into Sputnik 2, the probe that shot her into space.
It was only a month after the USSR had launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. That feat had already stunned the world, and the Americans in particular. The Soviets were determined to further beat the US at all costs.
Laika was a stray picked off the streets of Moscow barely a week before the launch. She’d been chosen for her small size and calm demeanor.
She was originally called Kudryavka, or Little Curly, but she became known internationally as Laika, a Russian word for several breeds of dog similar to a husky. American reporters dubbed her ‘Muttnik’ as a pun on the word Sputnik.
Two other dogs were trained for the Sputnik 2 trip: Albina was first ‘backup’ and Mushka tested instrumentation and life support.
According to Soviet experts, a great deal of work had to be done to adapt a group of dogs to the conditions in the tight cabin of Sputnik 2. They were kept in gradually smaller cages for periods up to 15-20 days.
The extremely tight fit of the capsule can be seen in the famous photo of Laika in Sputnik.
First-Ever Satellite Photo
On August 7th, 1959, NASA launched the Explorer 6 spheroidal satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The spacecraft was part of the largest series of unmanned US spacecraft, consisting of 55 scientific satellites, as launched between 1958 and 1975.
Explorer 6 was designed for the study of trapped radiation of various energies, as well as galactic cosmic rays and geomagnetism. Its highly elliptical orbit allowed the craft to study radio propagation in the upper atmosphere and the flux of micrometeorites.
The photo was taken at about 17,000 miles above the surface of the planet and also showed cloud cover over Earth, itself a first.
However, there were various issues with the equipment from the very beginning, including that only one of the three solar paddles became fully functional. This meant transmissions were never optimal.
First-Ever Weather Satellite Photo
On April 1st, 1960, the US launched the world’s first weather satellite into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was called TIROS I (short for Television and Infrared Observation Satellite) and it provided the first regular data on global weather.
The satellite was rocketed into space aboard a Thor-Able launch vehicle, in the early hours of April 1st, 1960, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The satellite was basically a cylinder with 18 flattened sides to mount solar power cells.
Its first image, taken the day of its launch, was the first television picture of Earth from space. It was a blurry photo of thick bands and clusters of clouds over America. TIROS-1 later captured a typhoon approximately 1,000 miles east of Australia.
First-Ever Space Selfie
June 21st, 2019, may have been National Selfie Day, but no selfie to date beats the first one ever taken by an astronaut out in space.
That astronaut was Buzz Aldrin, who would later walk on the moon with Neil Armstrong as part of the famous Apollo 11 mission. Aldrin took his selfie during NASA’s 1966 Gemini 12 mission.
Aldrin used a camera specially designed for photography in outer space. It formed part of the extra-vehicular activity (EVA) equipment used by astronauts during spacewalks.
First-Ever Color Photo of Venus
‘Venera’ means Venus in Russian. And so were named the many probes in the USSR’s program to explore Venus. Venera 13 and Venera 14 were identical spacecraft built for travel to Venus, with the former being launched on October 30th, 1981.
The primary goal of the Venera program was to learn more about Venus. In 1967, Venera 4 became the first probe to transmit info back to Earth while in the atmosphere of Venus, whilst in 1970 Venera 7 was the first craft to make a soft landing on Venus. Venera 9 was the first to send back pictures from the surface, albeit in black and white.
It was Venera 13 that was destined to make it into the history books of space photography. That’s because it captured the first colored photos ever taken of the surface of Venus. And they continue to be the best-quality color photos of the planet’s surface to this day.
Venera 13 launched on Oct. 30th, 1981, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, located in what is today Kazakhstan. The spacecraft carried several instruments on board, including spectrometers, a drill and surface sampler, and a panoramic camera.