The Blue Marble is the only whole-earth photo taken by human hands. No one has since been far enough from earth to take a similar picture.
The Blue Marble is a famous photograph of the Earth, taken on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft, at a distance of about 45,000 kilometers (28,000 mi).
The name has also been applied by NASA to a 2012 series of image data sets covering the entire globe at relatively high resolution, created by carefully sifting through satellite-captured sequences taken over time, to eliminate as much cloud cover as possible from the collated set of images.
Because many societies typically orient maps and globes to place Antarctica at the bottom, NASA rotated the original picture 180 degrees before publishing it.
The snapshot—taken by astronauts on December 7, 1972, at 5:39 a.m. EST (10:39 UTC)—is one of the most widely distributed photographic images in existence. The image is one of the few to show a fully illuminated Earth, as the astronauts had the Sun behind them when they took the image. To the astronauts, Earth had the appearance and size of a glass marble, hence the name.
The Blue Marble was not the first clear image taken of an illuminated face of the Earth, since similar shots from satellite had already been made as early as 1967. Counterculture activists had been among the first to cherish these images as icons of a new global consciousness. The Apollo 17 image, however, released during a surge in environmental activism during the 1970s, was acclaimed by the wide public as a depiction of Earth’s frailty, vulnerability, and isolation amid the vast expanse of space. NASA archivist Mike Gentry has speculated that The Blue Marble is the most widely distributed image in human history.