This weekend NASA released a video of planet Earth and the Moon from an unusual angle. The two-minute time-lapse clip was made using computer mapping data imagery from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite camera, and it features a clear image of the far side of the Moon. That video is superimposed over a computer-created version of Earth revealing something Earthlings have never seen.
The clip is actually animation, combining still photos from NASA’s Orbiter data. The “Dark Side” of the Moon features the Solar System’s largest single crater at its South Pole. It’s the closest we’ve seen to an actual film of the Moon’s surface over the course of an orbit from afar.
Why don’t we ever seen the far side from Earth? Because the Moon is tidally locked with Earth with one side facing us–the side so familiar to us all. Only spacecraft and the Apollo astronauts have directly viewed anything like the new video–the first being Apollo 8 in 1968. The first image of the far side came from the Soviet Luna 3 space probe in 1959. The Atlas of the Moon’s Far Side, documenting the craters and geography for the first time, was first published by the USSR in 1961 and is still available from time to time here at Amazon.com.
Check out the NASA video, after the break:
Geologist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt, the penultimate Earthling to walk on the Moon who we’ve discussed before here, once advocated for his landing site to be on the far side of the Moon, targeting Tsiolkovskiy, a lava-filled crater (most of the Dark Side craters have Russian names, since they were discovered first by Russian probes). His proposal was rejected for funding and a possible added safety risk. To date, no human has explored the far side’s surface.