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Space Age Archaeology

Tsiolkovsky imagines the Earth seen from orbit in 1920

3 Oct 2016, 02:28 UTC
Tsiolkovsky imagines the Earth seen from orbit in 1920
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

In 1920, the great Russian space visionary Konstantin Tsiolkovsky published Outside the Earth, in which Galileo, Newton, Franklin, Helmholtz, Ivanov and Laplace build a rocket. Along with a crew of 16 men, their colleagues elect Newton, Laplace, Franklin and Ivanov as first cosmonauts, while they stay behind in the Himalayan castle the scientists had built as a retreat from the world. It's a charming conceit, which Tsiolkovsky uses as a didactic device to explore all kinds of practical aspects of human spaceflight. What makes it especially interesting, from my perspective, is that he also creates a phenomenology of space through translating science into the experience of a human body. This is a theme which permeates his work, and he's rather brilliant at it.In the passage below, he describes the Earth as it appears from orbit. I'll remark upon a few points of interest when you've finished reading it.The Earth, taken from TIROS-1 in 1960.Image courtesy of NASAMen at the other portholes saw the Earth at a distance of a thousand kilometres. They didn't realise at first that they were looking at the terrestrial globe. But then they began to recognise the familiar contours of lakes and islands and continents amidst ...

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