nasa apollo 11 earth africa 1969 AS11 36 5352HRApollo 11 astronauts took this photo of Earth on July 20, 1969.NASA/Flickr

From the ground, Earth looks like a boundless fertile plain that beckons to be explored and exploited.

But astronauts would beg and even plead to differ.

“People often say, ‘I hope to go to heaven when I die.’ In reality, if you think about it, you go to heaven when you’re born,” Jim Lovell, an astronaut who flew on the Apollo 8 and Apollo 13 missions around the moon, previously told Business Insider. “God has really given us a stage […] on which we perform. And how that play turns out is up to us.”

Humanity has recorded photos of Earth from hundreds, thousands, millions, and even billions of miles away. The pictures help scientists study our dynamic world and understand what a habitable planet looks like from afar — a critical part of the search for alien worlds.

Most importantly, however, such images of Earth from space underscore our peculiar existence.

Carl Sagan, an astrophysicist and popularizer of science, was born on November 9, 1934. He died on December 20, 1996, two years after he famously juxtaposed human history as a bloody struggle upon a mote of cosmic dust in his book “Pale Blue Dot.”

In honor of Sagan, take a moment to ponder these 27 arresting images of Earth that humankind has captured from outer space.