30 breathtaking images from NASA's public library
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 2017 opened the digital doors to its image and video library website, allowing the public to access more than 140,000 images, videos, and audio files. The collection provides unprecedented views of space. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Moon landing, interest in what exists beyond our planet has reached a fever pitch and NASA is feeding public curiosity about its research and missions.
While work on robotic and human spaceflight already existed, a quick entry into the Space Race with the Soviet Union was deemed critical. NASA officially began operations on Oct. 1, 1958, as the primary organization for U.S. civil aerospace research and development. In just 11 years, NASA landed the first human on the moon in 1969.
In the 1970s, the focus shifted to developing a space station. Skylab was launched, unmanned, in May 1973. Three crewed missions followed during the next seven months to repair the station and conduct experiments. The first international space station partnership was the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, which brought American and Soviet crews together.
The space shuttle program became fully realized in April 1981 with the manned launch of the Columbia. In 135 missions flown with five shuttles, there were two catastrophic accidents—Challenger and Columbia. Discovery delivered the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit. The 30-year shuttle program was significant in setting the foundation for future Earth-to-orbit transportation and sustained space stays.
Shuttle technology led to the construction of the International Space Station, the largest structure humans have put into space. Two hundred thirty people from 18 countries have lived there since 2000, conducting experiments and documenting life in space.
Achievements like these make up the substance of the NASA Image and Video Library, featuring the best of the agency’s work in aeronautics, astrophysics, Earth science, human spaceflight, and more. Updated in 2019, the library is searchable, includes historical and current images; and all assets are downloadable. Stacker combed through the abundant collection to find the 30 most breathtaking images.
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The moon from Apollo 11
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin made history by landing on the moon while pilot Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit. While returning home on July 21, the crew captured this picture of the full moon. Earth’s only natural satellite, it circles us from an average distance of 238,900 miles away.
Earth from the International Space Station
An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot a picture of Earth from 250 miles over Australia. Airglow—the orange hue—comprises diffuse bands of light created by atoms colliding in the atmosphere near the interface of Earth and space. Studying airglow is helping scientists to understand the connections between Earth weather and space weather.
Hurricanes on Earth
Several large hurricanes were brewing in the Atlantic Ocean in September 2017. By assembling several images taken in one day by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, NASA could provide a vibrant look at this weather pattern. Views like this help communities make decisions about disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
Shuttle space walk
In 2006, NASA astronaut Robert L. Curbeam Jr. and European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang continued construction on the International Space Station (ISS). Below them lie New Zealand and Cook Strait in the Pacific Ocean. The ISS must be maintained and repaired regularly so that its inhabitants can complete missions and experiments through at least 2024.
Shuttle in silhouette
An ISS crewmember captured a picture of the space shuttle Endeavour as it neared docking in February 2010. It was Endeavour’s 10th flight to the ISS with the mission of delivering Tranquility (a berthing, life support, and exercise module) and Cupola (a robotics work station).
Eruption on the sun
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory documented a dramatic solar event on March 2, 2012. This explosion, appearing on the right side of the sun in the photograph, is called a “prominence eruption.” The prominence is made up of plasma—matter in an ultra-high-energy state even more volatile than gas—and can loop thousands of miles into space.
Raikoke volcano eruption
Raikoke Volcano sits on the remote Kuril Islands in the Pacific Ocean. On June 22, 2019, an ISS crew member captured an image of the volcanic plume of Raikoke’s first eruption in almost one hundred years. NASA satellites tracked the plume for activity that might affect aviation and climate.
The Curiosity Mars rover provided a selfie as part of its 1,065th day of work on Aug. 5, 2015. A combination of multiple images taken by its Hand Lens Imager, the picture shows Curiosity on a rock called “Buckskin” on Mount Sharp. The mission to drill into Buckskin and collect a sample for analysis was successful in finding silica, which may show that liquid water once existed on Mars.
Cargo craft docks
The unmanned Cygnus cargo craft—the SS John Young—was photographed attaching itself to the International Space Station in November 2018 with a delivery of 7,400 pounds of supplies. The spacecraft was named after John Young, NASA’s longest-serving astronaut, who was an integral part of missions to the moon and the space shuttle program.
John Young on the moon
As part of the first extravehicular activity of its mission, Apollo 16 commander John W. Young jumps off the lunar surface while saluting the American flag in April 1972. The fifth mission to land on the moon, Apollo 16 spent over 20 hours on the surface, drove 16.6 miles in the lunar rover, and returned with 210 pounds of samples.2018 All rights reserved.