NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter brings 'earthrise' to everyoneApril 19, 2012
Imagine yourself in orbit, your spacecraft flying backward with its small window facing down toward the surface of the moon. You peer out, scouring the ash-colored contours of the cratered landscape for traces of ancient volcanic activity. Around you, the silent, velvety blackness of space stretches out in every direction.
The spacecraft rolls over, and you glimpse a sliver of intense light starting to climb over the rough horizon. It might be dawn, except that the bright sliver quickly morphs into an arc of dazzling white swirled with vivid blue and then rises far enough to be recognized as the brilliant, marbled Earth. Captured on film, this breathtaking view becomes the iconic photograph "Earthrise."
On December 24, 1968, three people saw this happen firsthand: Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman and crew members William A. Anders and James A. Lovell, Jr. Now, in honor of Earth Day 2012, the rest of us can see what that was like in a new NASA visualization, which draws on richly detailed maps of the moon's surface made from data gathered by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
"This visualization recreates for everyone the wondrous experience of seeing Earth from that privileged viewpoint," says LRO Project Scientist Rich Vondrak of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
At the time of the famous photo, Apollo 8 was rounding the moon for the fourth time, traveling in a nearly circular orbit about 110 kilometers (68 miles) above the moon's surface at about a mile per second. "The spacecraft was pointed down to look at the moon's surface, because Anders was conducting an extensive photographic survey," explains James Rice, an astrogeologist at Goddard. "But Lovell needed to perform a navigation sighting, so Borman rolled the spacecraft." That's when Earth abruptly appeared.
To recreate this scene, NASA animator Ernie Wright reconstructed the orbit in software, using coordinates from an Apollo 8 mission report and photographs taken by the crew. "Apollo 8 was at 11 degrees south latitude and between 118 and 114 east longitude, with a westward view," says Wright. "The floor of Pasteur crater is visible in the foreground of the photograph."
Wright rendered the crisp contours of the moonscape using high-resolution topography data from LRO's Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, which has provided the most precise and complete maps to date of the moon's complex, heavily cratered terrain.
The Earth shown in the visualization is not an exact duplication of what the astronauts saw but a mosaic of more recent images taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (known as MODIS) instrument on the Terra satellite and assembled by NASA's Visible Earth team.
The narration in the visualization comes from the original audio recording of the Apollo 8 astronauts, their commentary on the task at hand interrupted as they react to the sudden sighting of Earth. "Oh my God!" an astronaut calls out. "Look at that picture over there!"
A black-and-white image is snapped with one of the Hasselblad cameras on board, capturing the very first picture of Earth taken by a human in orbit around the moon. The crew then scrambles to get a color picture, which is taken 58 seconds after the black-and-white photo.
The color image, which simultaneously captures Earth's bold vitality and its fragility, is later named "Earthrise" and has been reproduced countless times, including a U.S. postage stamp issued on May 5, 1969. This popularity earned the photo the featured spot on the cover of Life's book "100 Photographs that Changed the World," in which wilderness photographer Galen Rowell deemed it "the most influential environmental photograph ever taken."
For more information on LRO and the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, visit: http://lunar.gsfc.nasa.gov
For more information on Apollo 8, visit: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/masterCatalog.do?sc=1968-118A
For more information about NASA's Visible Earth, visit: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=57735
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Related Spacecraft Articles:
NASA's Van Allen Probes uncover new phenomena in our near-Earth environment with their unique double orbit.
NASA's Magnetospheric Multiscale mission begins a three-month long journey into a new orbit, taking it twice as far out as it has previously flown, to areas where magnetic reconnection is thought to trigger auroras.
In September 2015, a team of astronomers successfully observed the entire hydrogen coma of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, using the LAICA telescope onboard the PROCYON spacecraft.
Six studies highlight new and unexpected insights into Ceres, a dwarf planet and the largest object in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter).
The first US spacecraft designed to return a piece of an asteroid to Earth has arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it is now undergoing further testing in preparation for launch in September.
Technology for the removal of satellites from space is to be developed in a €2.8 million project involving the University of Strathclyde.
The first US mission to collect a sample of an asteroid and return it to Earth for study is undergoing a major milestone in its environmental testing.
The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft first began orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014.
SwRI leads the science investigation for MMS, a NASA mission to study magnetic reconnection up close for the first time.
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution has completed the first of five deep-dip maneuvers designed to gather measurements closer to the lower end of the Martian upper atmosphere.
Related Spacecraft Reading:
Spacecraft Systems Engineering
by Peter Fortescue (Editor), Graham Swinerd (Editor), John Stark (Editor)
This fourth edition of the bestselling Spacecraft Systems Engineering title provides the reader with comprehensive coverage of the design of spacecraft and the implementation of space missions, across a wide spectrum of space applications and space science. The text has been thoroughly revised and updated, with each chapter authored by a recognized expert in the field. Three chapters – Ground Segment, Product Assurance and Spacecraft System Engineering – have been rewritten, and the topic of Assembly, Integration and Verification has been introduced as a new chapter, filling a... View Details
Spacecraft, 2000-2100 A.D.: Terran Trade Authority Handbook
by Stewart Cowley (Author)
The Terran Defense Authority Commander provides information on the design, development, operation, and technical specifications of military, civilian, commercial, and special function spacecraft in use during the twenty-first century View Details
Architecting Spacecraft with SysML: A Model-based Systems Engineering Approach
by Sanford Friedenthal (Author), Christopher Oster (Author)
A Guide to Apply a Model-based Systems Engineering Approach with SysML to Specify and Architect Systems.
This book provides a straightforward guide to develop an architecture model of a Small Satellite using the Systems Modeling Language (SysML®). SysML is a general-purpose modeling language used to specify and architect systems. Model-based Systems Engineering (MBSE) is intended to produce an integrated system model using SysML which reflects multiple views of the system to specify the interaction and interconnection of its components, and their functions, states,... View Details
Spacecraft Propulsion (AIAA Education Series)
by Charles D Brown (Author)
This valuable textbook describes those subjects important to conceptual, competitive stages of propulsion design and emphasizes the tools needed for this process. The text begins with a discussion of the history of propulsion and outlines various propulsion system types to be discussed such as cold gas systems, monopropellant systems, bipropellant systems, and solid systems. Included with the text is PRO: AIAA Propulsion Design Software, which allows the reader to proceed directly from understanding into professional work and provides the accuracy, speed, and convenience of personal... View Details
Facts from Space!: From Super-Secret Spacecraft to Volcanoes in Outer Space, Extraterrestrial Facts to Blow Your Mind!
by Dean Regas (Author)
A guided tour through the universe--and beyond!
From the sun's super-hot core to the many moons of Neptune, we're traveling to the far reaches of our solar system and beyond! Astronomer Dean Regas presents Facts from Space!--an exciting education on everything outside our atmosphere. Inside, you'll discover space facts and celestial trivia, including:A day on Venus is longer than its year.Early space missions ejected human waste into space, where it froze into intricate crystals that still float in space today.After being in space, some astronauts returned to Earth up to... View Details
Complete Guide to NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Project - Report on Spacecraft, Instruments and Mirror, Science, Infrared Astronomy, Independent Review Reports, Congressional Hearings
by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (Author), World Spaceflight News (Author)
Comprehensive coverage of all aspects of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), currently under construction and planned for launch sometime near 2018, is provided in this unique compilation of official NASA material. There is complete data on the JWST mission, science investigations, instruments and subsystems, unique mirror technology, the L2 orbit, special gyros, sunshield, infrared astronomy science to be obtained by the JWST, plus in-depth coverage of the funding controversy regarding the large cost overruns and schedule delays encountered by the project - with testimony from... View Details
Spacecraft (Pogo: Space Explorers) (Space Explorer (Hardcover))
by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst (Author)
In Spacecraft, early fluent readers learn about the construction and function of a variety of spacecraft. Vibrant, full-color photos and carefully leveled text engage young readers as they learn about the fascinating vehicles exploring our universe. View Details
Soyuz Owners' Workshop Manual: 1967 onwards (all models) - An insight into Russia's flagship spacecraft, from Moon missions to the International Space Station
by David Baker (Author), Helen Sharman OBE (Foreword)
The Soyuz spacecraft played a major role in Russia's plans for a manned landing on the Moon and several test models were flown at the height of the 'space race'. Originally designed for circumlunar flight, Soyuz has been the mainstay of Russia's space program.View Details
Spy Satellite Manual (Owners' Workshop Manual)
by David Baker (Author)
In 1954, three years before the launch of Sputnik 1, the world’s first satellite, top-secret discussions were held in the United States to plan the development of military spy satellites, designed to obtain detailed photography of the Soviet Union’s military strength, and its potential for waging nuclear war. This book takes a detailed look at the programmes which resulted from the clandestine decision in the US to build highly secret spy satellites in parallel with civilian space plans, revealing for the first time previously classified details of the design and layout of photographic... View Details
Spacecraft Structures and Mechanisms from Concept to Launch (The Space Technology Library, Vol. 4)
by Thomas P. Sarafin (Author)
Describes how to develop spacecraft, from defining requirements and design to ensuring mechanical readiness for launch. View Details