October 30, 2014

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From the Earth to the Moon (and Back)

image fromXinhua News by way of Emily Lakdawalla.

Sometimes minor missions can have a big visual impact*. China is half way through an engineering roundtrip mission to the Moon to test the process of re-entry of a vehicle returning from the Moon. This is an un-instrumented spacecraft (apparently) other than a camera which snapped this evocative image. The Chang'e 5 T1 spacecraft passed further behind the Moon than Apollo did, allowing a dramatic image of the far side of the Moon and a distant, blue-splashed Earth. Since Zond 6 there have only been a few pictures from lunar orbit that show both the Earth and Moon, and most show a distant Earth over a closeup of a lunar polar region. This Chang'e image may be unique in its perspective. It is somewhat like the first ever image of the farside in having visible some of the nearside eastern limb. The two dark patches near the equator are Mare Marginis (with the bright swirl) and Mare Smythii, and I suppose the northern dark spot is Mare Humboldtianum. The large dark area near the center is Mare Moscoviense. It is ironic that China has imaged the Sea of Moscow. The first view of the entire far side, and the last (so far), were acquired by communist countries. Both were of little scientific value, but were great symbolic gestures.

Chuck Wood
'* e.g. India's Mars Orbiter Mission

Related Links
21st Century Atlas page 97.

Yesterday's LPOD: Yellows - Bright and Pale

Tomorrow's LPOD: Deorbiting


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