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Parting Moon Shots from NASA's GRAIL mission
January 25, 2013 6:25 AM   Subscribe

Three days prior to its planned impact on a lunar mountain, mission controllers activated the camera aboard one of NASA's GRAIL twins to take some final photos from lunar orbit. The result is some of the best footage of the moon's surface captured so far.

"At the time the images were taken, the spacecraft was about 6 miles (10km) above the northern hemisphere of the moon's far side, in the vicinity of the Jackson impact crater. This imagery was acquired as part of a final checkout of spacecraft equipment prior to is planned impact on a mountain near the moon's north pole on Dec. 17." [via]
posted by quin (36 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cmon NASA, turn the freaking thing sideways before you shoot video.
posted by theodolite at 6:35 AM on January 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Portrait aspect? What, is it carrying an iPhone?

Ahhh, who cares, it's amazingly awesome.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:37 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I too came to snark on the portrait aspect. Nevertheless - SCIENCE!!!!
posted by Brodiggitty at 6:44 AM on January 25, 2013


I cam to snark about the video aspect ratio, but I see that everyone already has. That makes me sad. Where has my amazement gone?
posted by procrastination at 6:48 AM on January 25, 2013


I watched this with a voice in my brain screaming IT'S THE MOON! YOU'RE LOOKING AT THE GODDAMNED MOON! and I wanted to jump up from my desk and do a wild dance celebrating the fact that I'm alive right now. I mean, Holy Fucking Shit. Sorry, couldn't help myself there.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:53 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


That foreshortened - relative to our experience here on Earth - horizon always gets me.

Very cool, thanks.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:55 AM on January 25, 2013


The foreshortening, and pronounced curve, really got me, too. Is the apparent shininess, particularly noticeable in the aft camera view, of some of the craters just an artifact?
posted by mollweide at 6:59 AM on January 25, 2013


It's still hard for me to wrap my head around that I'm seeing places and not just textures.

There was an exhibit in a local science museum way back in the 70s where you entered a lunar module and looked out on the moonscape. In hindsight it was eerily accurate. This makes me rethink the prescience whole exhibit. Perhaps our future will be dominated by robots named 'Tobor' after all.
posted by mazola at 6:59 AM on January 25, 2013


This confirms that the moon is really made of cheese. Not green cheese, but grey, moldy, slightly melted, beautiful cheese.
posted by elgilito at 7:08 AM on January 25, 2013


I'm with you kinnakeet- the moon! That's so awesome! This is so awesome! Nasa is so awesome!
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:17 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Needs a soundtrack.
posted by Kabanos at 7:19 AM on January 25, 2013


Agree, but spooky wind sounds or synthesizer music would be even nicer. Though sexy 60's lady is kinda awesome.
posted by antiquated at 7:42 AM on January 25, 2013


I mean, Holy Fucking Shit. Sorry, couldn't help myself there.

HOLY SHIT
posted by jquinby at 7:54 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pft. It's only a model...
posted by brundlefly at 8:26 AM on January 25, 2013


But seriously, that's pretty amazing.
posted by brundlefly at 8:27 AM on January 25, 2013


Not just one face. Lots of faces.
posted by Conductor71 at 8:38 AM on January 25, 2013


It's only a model...

shh!
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:45 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had a short moment where I didn't know which direction the light was coming from, and the moon was covered with low domes, until things shifted and they were craters again.
posted by Guy Smiley at 8:56 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


1'56 Didn't expect to see those two guys waving up at the orbiter, a la joyous of the arrival of the rescue helicopter.
posted by run"monty at 8:58 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It looks like a dirty beach.
posted by marxchivist at 8:59 AM on January 25, 2013


I love that you can see the curvature of the moon from the camera. I wonder if I can calculate the diameter of the moon based on this. Be back in 5(years)!
posted by Quack at 9:08 AM on January 25, 2013


I love me a good flyover video, but want to find a frame of reference:

6 miles up is only slightly more than 30,000 ft - around cruising altitude for a passenger airliner. OK, I've been in one of those and can appreciate the difference in horizon curvature.

Wish I knew how the perceived rate of travel compares to airline travel.
posted by ElGuapo at 9:09 AM on January 25, 2013


In the same vein as kinnakeet, it's pretty cool that with the internet I can answer my own question in a matter of minutes. TLDR: it appears to be 45x faster

Some quick googling and loose calculations tells me that lunar orbital speed at 6 miles altitude is about 3750 mph. Multiplying that by 6 (that video is 6x actual orbital motion) I get a relative velocity of 22,500 mph.

Airliners fly at 500 mph or so, so that video would need to be slowed down by a factor of 45 to give me the "pretend you're looking out the window of the spacecraft" experience.

Now, off to find a way to do that!
posted by ElGuapo at 9:31 AM on January 25, 2013


Whatever you do, do NOT google "Parting Moon Shots" at work.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:51 AM on January 25, 2013


There's actually closer images from some of the Ranger impactors made before the moon landings...my college library had some in book form...I remember getting to the last page and being startled, then laughing. The last picture was cut in half.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:03 AM on January 25, 2013


I've got chills! This is the coolest thing ever!
posted by Room 641-A at 10:04 AM on January 25, 2013


The Moon messes with my sense of scale so much -- no atmosphere to cause distance haze, no trees or anything else terrestrial to give a sense of height, craters. It's wonderfully disorienting.
posted by jiawen at 10:06 AM on January 25, 2013


We must have exhausted our lens flare jokes in the J. J. Abrams thread.

But seriously, this is cool, and it never ceases to amaze me how the actual lunar surface is indistinguishable from CGI or a physical model.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:11 AM on January 25, 2013


I watched this with a voice in my brain screaming IT'S THE MOON! YOU'RE LOOKING AT THE GODDAMNED MOON! and I wanted to jump up from my desk and do a wild dance celebrating the fact that I'm alive right now.

"How lucky we are to live in this time, the first moment in human history when we are, in fact, visiting other worlds."
posted by The Tensor at 10:29 AM on January 25, 2013


Is that the Mysterious Mars Face I see at 1:02?
posted by chavenet at 11:13 AM on January 25, 2013


> Needs a soundtrack.

Actually, I was deeply grateful they didn't drape some goddam music over it (that I would then have to turn off my speakers for). SPACE: IT'S SILENT, MOTHERFUCKERS!

Also, great post.
posted by languagehat at 11:22 AM on January 25, 2013


SPACE: IT'S SILENT, MOTHERFUCKERS!

Why are you screaming? No one can hear you.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:36 AM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


"The Moon messes with my sense of scale so much -- no atmosphere to cause distance haze, no trees or anything else terrestrial to give a sense of height, craters. It's wonderfully disorienting."

Yeah, and the craters come in so many different sizes! They're all round, and (from this height) nearly identical objects, randomly distributed across the Moon at varying scales. No wonder it looks artificial to people. Nothing within Earth's biosphere has that fractal quality.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:44 PM on January 25, 2013


[insert link to flyover of romanesco broccoli here]
posted by kaibutsu at 2:28 PM on January 25, 2013


Okay, nothing at human scale has that quality. Landscapes that are large enough to persist for years (not broccoli heads) tend to become increasingly diverse over time due to weathering and the effects of different life forms. A young forest planted in new soil may look a bit fractal from the air, but over time some trees will do better than others and grow at different rates. As years go by and different generations of trees live and die, nutrients and bacteria will become concentrated in some areas and less abundant in others, resulting in a forest with a very heterogeneous appearance.

That fractal appearance of the moon, with so many homogeneous elements repeated at different scales, is the hallmark of a landscape that has never seen life. There's nothing to soften the harshness of it or disguise the effects of passing time.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:00 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


For those wondering why they shot in portrait mode:

GRAIL MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students)
posted by kuanes at 3:52 AM on January 26, 2013


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