Taken from a distance of 450 km above ground, these photographs show cities’ impact on the territory in places like Doha’s artificial islands, the development around Bilbao’s estuary, and Riyadh’s built desert.
Since 1968, when the crew of Apollo 8 took the mythical image of Earth from outer space, many zenithal photos of our planet have been taken from satellites, with evident applications for fields like agriculture, the environment, or mapmaking. The firm Planet, set up by former NASA employees, advances in this direction by turning the lenses of their cameras to an angle between 45º and 60º, in such a way that the Earth’s surface appears three-dimensional. The effect obtained with this simple innovation simulates the oblique view one would have from an airplane window.
A constellation of over 175 satellites monitors the planet day by day, coursing the lunar orbit every 90 minutes. Measuring less than a meter and with a useful life of six years, the satellites are designed and made by the same enterprise that launches a new one every three months. The system allows sending information every day to thirty land-based stations, located at different points of the globe, where it is processed, filed, and uploaded to a web platform so that it is accessible to the public.
The change of perspective that the first photographs of Earth taken from space produced, transforming our collective awareness of the planet, now takes on new dimensions as these images enter a network of data. We can now not only see, but also in an automated way compare, analyze, and identify the transformations that our impact on the territory produces.