Few would deny that the now over four decades of space photography have given us a new worldview. No, the basic laws of science have not changed as a result of these images; no, the ideas of Kepler, Newton, and Einstein have not been eclipsed by photos from beyond our planet. However these pictures from space have added new dimensions to our understanding of this, our own small section of the Milky Way. They have changed the way we view the universe and our part in it. They have made us feel small, made us feel large, and made us feel bound to one another as humans.
These photographs have enabled the average person to understand, in the blink of an eye, relationships which were previously the reserve of a tiny minority of experts. These images demand no previous knowledge, they don't disqualify all the millions of people in the world who cannot read, they are equally accessible to any and all who can see.
The beauty of these photos works intuitively and almost instantly. We see a picture of Earth, for instance, poised like a blue-green jewel against the black of space, we see its surprisingly thin layer of atmosphere, we look upon the whole of our planet and are struck by how delicate and small it appears!
This picture demands no specialist skills in meteorology or physics. It requires no deeper knowledge of ecological systems and trends. Intuitively, we understand that our planet’s system is a fragile one, something to be protected.
It goes without saying that the 40 years of photographs brought back from space have also given scientists and specialists a wealth of unique opportunities to deepen and extend their knowledge of our most immediate celestial neighbors. But our knowledge of our own planet has increased even more. Today, for example, we almost take it for granted that the Earth's resources, environmental changes, and weather systems can be mapped in a completely different way than was possible before the debut of satellite pictures.
Back on Earth, back on the west coast of Sweden where Victor Hasselblad developed his famous camera, one can find a poetic parallel; there on the weathered stone of the Swedish archipelago we find pictures from another age in the ascent of man. These rock-carvings, like the cave paintings in Europe before them and like the space images of our own time also carried a message. They were also designed to convey thoughts, feelings, and information.
Not a lot has changed in that regard. It is up to us to interpret the images correctly, to take from them what they offer.