The final frontier on film
Space. The final frontier. It's so dark and infinite that it's hard to even conceive of what exists beyond the bubble of our home planet. But photographs can help; they take a piece of that vast, unimaginable space and quite literally bring it down to Earth.
Scroll on to discover 8 of the most mind-blowing, breathtaking photographs of what lies beyond our world...
1. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind
Here we can see Neil Armstrong's footprint on the moon after the first ever step onto the lunar surface during the Apollo-Saturn 11 mission. It offers a glimpse of the incredible way humans have left their (albeit small) mark on outer space.
2. Don't look down
Taken in 1984, this dizzying photograph shows Bruce McCandless making the first untethered space walk during the Space Shuttle 41-B Challenger mission. Absolutely terrifying.
3. The red planet
This image was taken by the Viking 2 lander and is the first ever color photograph taken on the surface of mars. It shows that the surface is just as red as you'd imagine for the famously 'red planet'.
4. "And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee" - Friedrich Nietzsche
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on the surface of Moon near the leg of Lunar Module "Eagle". Look closer: what's nice about this image is that you can see a reflection of astronaut Neil Armstrong and the lunar module in his face mask.
5. The Pillars of Creation
This panoramic image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows a high-resolution panoramic view of the "Pillars of Creation," and is one of the orbiting telescope's most famous images. Located at the heart of the Eagle Nebula, a favorite feature for amateur astronomers, the Pillars are giant, gaseous nurseries for newborn stars. The largest of the three Pillars in the 1995 Hubble image is about four light-years from base to tip. But, despite being so vast, the Pillars are only a tiny feature (shown at center) of this huge image produced by the National Science Foundation's 0.9-meter telescope.
6. Home is where the heart is
In 1972, Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke left something very personal on the moon: a family portrait. Duke, the youngest man to ever walk on the lunar surface, left this family keepsake so his "whole family can go to the moon".
Despite all of the scientific and technological work that goes into it, this photo shows the human side of space exploration.
7. Reaching for the stars
We often speak of that "one small step for man", but there are also lots of amazing spacewomen who have equally made giant leaps for space exploration. This image shows astronaut Peggy Whitson working on the assembly of the International Space Station in outer space. Whitson was the first female mission commander of the International Space Station. Her total duration of space flights is record-setting among women, totaling 376 days, 17 hours and 28 minutes.
8. Gaze into the Great Beyond
Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute unveiled this photo on March 9, 2004. It's a picture of an area in space called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field and was taken by cameras on the NASA Hubble Space Telescope. At the time this was the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever seen.
It shows the swirls of distant galaxies, each of which contains billions of stars.
Beautiful, and just a little bit terrifying, these images show us a glimpse of the universe beyond our world.
And who knows what photographs from space we'll see in the future: distant solar systems; other Earth-like planets; or perhaps even alien lifeforms. We can only, as our ancestors have always done, look up and imagine...
Discover the Space Exploration project here.