January 30, 2014

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Ships Passing in the Daytime

image from LROC Featured Image Jan 29, 2014 (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

When Apollo spacecraft were orbiting the Moon, a crew member in one would often photograph the other vehicle, but I am not aware of any other imaging of one robotic spacecraft by another. (For the Moon that is; dramatic imaging of vehicles near Mars has occurred.) The LRO camera team worked with the LRO navigation team and the LADEE operations folks to determine when LRO could image LADEE. On Jan 15, LRO passed 9 km above and to the side of LADEE and the picture was taken. But the planning had to be precise because LADEE is in an equatorial orbit and LRO follows a polar path, and each is moving really fast (about 3500 miles/hr). Mark Robinson, PI of LROC, explains the details of how they did it, and then reduces the smear in the rapidly moving LADEE blur to recreate an image of the 1 by 2 m spacecraft that has, arguably, identifiable spacecraft parts. Check it out.

Chuck Wood

Technical Details
LADEE = Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer

Yesterday's LPOD: Moon Map Light Box

Tomorrow's LPOD: Arm-Waving


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