One of the most exciting development in the past several years has been the rapid democratization of space. Whereas during the cold war and its immediate aftermath, access to space was tightly controlled, this hegemonic access to space has been rapidly shifting in recent years (succinctly put here and here). With technological leaps in miniaturization and industrial changes towards privatization, the ability to view the world from a low earth orbit and place objects there is opening up at a fantastic pace (a low earth orbit is roughly between 100 miles and 1,200 miles; the International Space Station is usually orbiting at around 260 miles. If you want to look at the earth from space right now you are blessed with a range of options:
1) Google Earth: Although it is not anything close like live images, GE is a kind of archive of satellite imagery.
2) The ISS livecam: cameras have been placed on the International Space Station to test their resilience to the harsh environment of space. If the picture is black, the ISS is in night and the resolution is not good enough to pick out cities in the dark. If it is grey, the feed is switching cameras. Hang around to watch a sunrise!
3) The LANDSAT program
and many more via the web and apps, such as streams of earth, mars, the Sun, etc.
And why be restricted to pretty pictures (check out the art of The Daily Overview!)? There’s plenty of places to acquire data about the earth as well.
But this is all changing.