The Big Blue Marble

This photograph of the whole globe of the earth is called the “Big Blue Marble” because it resembles a glass marble. This image shows a fully illuminated earth because the sun was behind the spacecraft when it was taken. It must be one of the most widely reproduced photographs.

Besides providing irrefutable evidence that the earth is round, this photograph showed its fragility, vulnerability and isolation in space at a time when green movements were being established in the 1970s. In fact it has been said that man traveled to the moon to discover the earth.

This particular photograph was taken American astronauts leaving the earth on the way to the moon. The Apollo programme was established in the 1960s to fulfill President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the 1960s. The programme ahs been termed “man’s greatest adventure” but it came at a cost 0f $24 billion, employing 400,000 workers. The United States beat the Russians to the moon when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon on 20th July 1969, nearly forty years ago. There were more Apollo missions to the moon and each one was more complicated and achieved more than the previous one.

The “Big Blue Marble” photograph was taken by the last trip to the moon Apollo 17. The crew consisted of Commander Gene Cernan, Ron Evans and Harrison Schmitt. Cernan and Evans were engineers and pilots but Schmitt was unique because he was a geologist, the only scientist to travel to the moon and he took the photograph of the earth immortalized as the “Big Blue Marble”. Subsequent to his flight on Apollo 17, Harrison Schmitt became a US Senator, businessman, author and recently chaired the NASA advisory council. He is a keen advocate of the commercial exploitation of space specifically for mining Helium 3 from the moon to produce energy by fusion.


Senator Schmitt will be visiting Malta as a guest of the US embassy and he will be giving two talks organised with the co-operation of the Physics Department of the University of Malta and the International Year of Astronomy 2009 Malta committee.


Date: Wednesday 22nd April 2009

Time: 18:30-19:30

Place: Erin Serracino Inglott Hall, University of Malta, Tal-Qroqq



Date: Thursday 23rd April 2009

Time: 18:30-19:30

Place: Room 401 Mathematics and Physics building, University of Malta, Tal-Qroqq


Attendance to both talks is free of charge and open to the public. The Wednesday talk is intended for the general public while the Thursday talk will be more suited to persons with an interest in space exploration and the audience would ideally include academics and science students over the age of 16 years, although members of the public with a science background and an interest in the topic are also welcome. Those wishing to attend are encouraged to register by sending an email to physics.sci@um.edu.mt, with the date or dates of their selected talk/talks in the subject caption.The audience for both talks is requested to be seated at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start. Following the presentation Senator Harrison will take questions from the audience.

© Gordon Caruana-Dingli, Chair IYA 2009 Malta Committee




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