|To go on a cosmic journey, one must leave the planet Earth far behind, an idea more than a little frightening. But on the journey, one will be treated to an incomparable sight, the Earth in its totality. It will not be possible to recognize the continents as we have learned them from geography books. North and South America, Asia, Australia, do not present their familiar contours because cloud patterns cover much of the Earth at any given time. Even where there are no clouds, land covered with green foliage, when viewed through our blue atmosphere, is not easily distinguished from the blue of the ocean. The only change to the delicate blue-and-white pattern is an occasional, small, yellow-orange shape: a desert...but which one? The Sahara in Africa, the Gobi in Asia, or the Great Sandy Desert in Australia? It is almost impossible to tell.
Apollo 17 Astronaut Jack Schmitt is taking a few photographs on a short cosmic journey. He is an astronaut - part explorer, part scientist and, however briefly, a wide-eyed tourist. As Jack would later say, "The scene is one of desert-like beauty...a land of extreme contrasts. A brilliant Sun in a blacker-than-black sky. Maybe most stimulating at that moment was being able to look up and see my home; the planet Earth, handing above the Moon's mountains as a beautiful blue-and-white marble with desert areas just standing out like beacons. Seeing that scene for the first time, the act of being there, made it one of life's meaningful experiences."