A camera aboard one of NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) lunar spacecraft has sent back footage of the far side of the moon.
In the video, the north pole of the moon is visible at the top of the screen as the spacecraft flies toward the lunar south pole.
One of the first prominent geological features depicted on the lower third of the moon is the Mare Orientale, a 560-mile-wide (900 kilometer) impact basin that straddles both the moon’s near and far side.
The clip ends with rugged terrain just short of the lunar south pole. To the left of center, near the bottom of the screen, is the 93-mile-wide (149 kilometer) Drygalski crater with its distinctive star-shaped formation in the middle. The formation is a central peak, created many billions of years ago by a comet or asteroid impact.
“The quality of the video is excellent and should energize our MoonKAM students as they prepare to explore the moon,” explained Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
Launched in September 2011, the Ebb and Flow GRAIL spacecraft periodically perform trajectory correction maneuvers that, over time, will eventually lower their orbits to near-circular ones with an altitude of approximately 34 miles (55 kilometers).
Over the course of their science mission, the spacecraft are expected to help scientists answer longstanding questions about the moon and provide researchers with a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.