The curved Earth from record – breaking high altitude orbit

Space Mission
Gemini XI, 12-15 September 1966

Richard Gordon

Photo Description
Vintage chromogenic print on fiber-based Kodak paper; Numbered to upper margin ‘NASA S-66-54687’ with NASA MSC caption to verso and ‘A Kodak Paper’ watermarks to verso.
10 h × 8 w in (25 × 20 cm)

Once docked with the Agena vehicle (whose L-band antenna is in the left foreground), the astronauts used its propulsion system to increase its apogee to 740 nautical miles (1,370 km), the highest Earth orbit ever reached by a manned spacecraft.
This record stands as of 2019, even though men have achieved greater distances from Earth by flying to the Moon in the Apollo program. The maximum operational altitude of the Space Shuttle was lower, at 600 miles (970 km).

This photograph taken looking west with the Hasselblad Super Wide camera and its 38mm lens shows the curvature of the Earth over the Indian Ocean and Sumatra-Java under partial cloud cover from an altitude of 530 nautical miles.