The Apollo 8 Earthrise Photo
Photos of the Earth from space, most notably the famous Earthrise photo taken from lunar orbit during the spaceflight of Apollo 8 to the moon in December of 1968 have served as a symbol for the UvA big history course since the year 2000.
The Earthrise photo shows how people saw the Earth as a whole for the first time in history. It also helps us to understand the importance of both zooming in, to see details, and zooming out, to see the overview, in this case: our home planet swinging through mostly empty space that is hostile to human life.
Starting in 1969, the Apollo pictures of the Earth at a distance have stimulated a global awareness of environmental issues, while they have encouraged people to think about the connections between their own lives and biological, geological, and even astronomical processes. These photos show what can be gained while looking at ourselves from a distance, in other words: by using a large-scale big history perspective.
For more information on the history and importance of the Earthrise photo, see: Robert Poole's book Earthrise (2008), and Fred Spier's personal quest: The Elusive Apollo 8 Earthrise Photo, (2012), downloadable as a pdf.
The original Apollo 8 Earthrise photo
(William Anders, NASA)