Outta This World

The Best of NASA’s Planet Porn

Need some space? NASA’s got you.

“To infinity and beyond!”

For NASA, these words earnestly spoken by Buzz Lightyear (and echoed by many children and parents since) are more than a plastic toy’s ironic catchphrase from Toy Story; instead, they define its purpose.

A new book, The Planets: Photographs from the Archives of NASA, offers those of us unable to physically explore the final frontier a chance to see beyond our planet. The tome gives a glimpse of what lies outside the familiar bounds of Earth through photographs taken over the past half century of space exploration—and a forward written by Bill Nye (the Science Guy!).

While there are some photographs in the collection that portray the planets as we may have seen before, many of the highlights capture pieces of our solar system that seem more like art than fragments of our universe still out of reach of human touch.

Referring to the now-iconic photograph of Earth, Pale Blue Dot, celebrated astronomer Carl Sagan once wrote, “There is perhaps no better a demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.” With more than 200 striking images, The Planets offers the same poignancy Sagan described, through a brief respite from life on Earth.

With that, here’s some space:

Photos and captions courtesy of The Planets: Photographs from the Archives of NASA by Nirmala Nataraj, published by Chronicle Books 2017.