The Whole Earth: NASA's "Blue Marble" Photograph Fifty Years On

7 Dec 2022 - 9 Dec 2022

3.30pm - 9.00pm

University of Portsmouth - Eldon Building, Winston Churchill Avenue, Portsmouth, PO1 2DJ


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On the fiftieth anniversary of NASA's famed “Blue Marble” photograph (1972), the University of Portsmouth will host a series of public talks, film screenings, workshops and artworks that reassess its historical impact and enduring legacy. As a talismanic icon in US (and global) visual culture, the Blue Marble not only offered a spectacular vision of the Earth seen from space, but quickly intervened in a range of political, cultural and scientific debates. It has subsequently served as a launch pad from which discussions emerge over issues as varied as the environment, the ethics of space travel, geopolitics, global interconnectedness, philosophy and, indeed, the scientific understanding of the earth itself. From Greenpeace to Gaia to Google Maps, from the tranquillity of outer space to social unrest on Earth, it is an image inextricably associated with a transformative period of US and global history, and an icon that continues to elicit analysis and interrogation.

The Whole Earth brings together historians, scientists, artists and designers in a wide-ranging discussion of the photograph as a historical and contemporary icon. Public talks situate the Blue Marble within wider political, cultural, scientific and technological transformations of the 1960s, 1970s and beyond. Artworks reflect on the photograph’s visual legacy, ideological import and the opportunities and challenges associated with constructing a “Blue Marble for 2022.”

The events are supported by the US Embassy, London, and the British Association for American Studies and are free to attend. Advance booking is required.


Wednesday 7 December

3.30-5.15pm - Eldon Building, University of Portsmouth, Room 1.10

3.30 Welcome (Oliver Gruner, Senior Lecturer in Visual Culture, University of Portsmouth).

3.45 - Introduction (Claudia Maraston, Professor of Astrophysics, Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth).

4pm - Public talk: The Visual Legacy of Apollo Astronaut Photography (Jennifer Levasseur, Curator at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington D.C.) + Question and Answer Session.

5.15-5.45 - Break

5.45-7.15 - Eldon Building, University of Portsmouth, Room 1.10

5.45 - Response to Jennifer Levasseur and Introduction (James Ryan, Professor and Head of the School of Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature, University of Portsmouth).

6pm - Public Talk: The Whole Earth: Blue Marble, 1972-2022 (Robert Poole, Professor of History, the University of Central Lancashire) + Question and Answer Session.

Thursday 8 December

1pm-3pm - Eldon Building, University of Portsmouth, Room 0.20

1pm - Creative Practitioners' Talks and Exhibition of Artworks: Daniel Alexander (Course Leader MA Photography, London College of Communication); Rachael Brown (Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture, University of Portsmouth); Simone Gumtau (Senior Lecturer in Visual Culture, University of Portsmouth); Ziggy Kolker (Senior Lecturer in Photography, University of Portsmouth); Dan McCabe (Course Leader MA Graphic Design, University of Portsmouth).

3pm - Break

4pm-5.15pm - Online via Zoom, or Join the Discussion in the Park Building, University of Portsmouth, Room 3.23

4pm - Public Talk: Neil Maher (Professor of History, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers University), with an introduction from Oliver Gruner (Senior Lecturer in Visual Culture, University of Portsmouth).

5.15pm - Break

6pm-7.15pm - University of Portsmouth Eldon Building, Room 1.11

Public Talk: "Earth and Space in Blockbuster Movies, 1968-2019." Peter Kramer (Senior Research Fellow, De Montfort University).

Friday 9 December

2pm-3.15pm - Online via Zoom, and Eldon Building, room 1.10

Public Talk: Gaia as Seen from Above and Within (Tim Lenton, Director of the Global Systems Institute and Chair in Climate Change and Earth Systems Science, University of Exeter), with an introduction from Nick Pepin (Reader in Climate Science, University of Portsmouth).

5.45-9pm - Film Screening 2001: A Space Odyssey, with an Introduction from Peter Kramer (Senior Research Fellow, De Montfort University). Eldon Building, room 1.11.

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