Prepare yourself for some goosebumps. The Mercury spacecraft MESSENGER took this series of images of Earth eight years ago today as it swung by the planet (again) en route to its final destination.
Few humans have seen the Earth as an entire orb. Only a handful of missions, all in the Apollo era, have ventured beyond low Earth orbit. The people who traveled furthest were Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert during Apollo 13, when their spacecraft (which had been crippled by an explosion) looped around the moon on the way home.
MESSENGER is happily traveling around Mercury these days and recently recorded a cool series of images showing the planet as a colorful, spinning sphere. The spacecraft — the first to do an extended stay around that planet — has shown scientists a lot of things, including the discovery of water ice and organics.
Thanks to Astronomy Picture of the Day for reminding us of this video.