On December 5, 2012, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released new images of Earth from space. These striking images of the planet at night, which NASA dubbed the “Black Marble,” showed a dark Earth dotted unevenly with yellow lights. Cities, sprawling suburbs, and industrial corridors are easily visible and recognizable from space; rural and more remote territories are nearly black. The accompanying feature article posted on NASA’s website that day, “Out of the Blue and Into the Black: New Views of the Earth at Night,” played on Neil Young lyrics from 1979, likely suggesting the historical and cultural milieu of many NASA scientists.1 The timing and title were hardly coincidental. On December 7, 1972—almost exactly forty...

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