There’s an argument to be made that some astronomical pictures are better inspirational tools than all of the science that the missions that took them might have collected during their lifetimes. This author personally had his interest in space exploration sparked when he first saw the Ultra Deep Field and then had it permanently ingrained in his brain with the Pale Blue Dot and the associated book. The fact that they have individual names (Earth Rise, The Blue Marble, etc.) shows their importance to our collective understanding of our planet and our place in the Universe. Now, we might have a new one, as we’ve received a spectacular view of our Moon and a crescent Earth from the Artemis 1 mission.
The picture, seen in the banner, was taken by the Orion spacecraft right after it completed its final burn past the Moon on December 5th, the 20th day of the first Artemis mission. During that burn, the capsule passed within 130 km of the Moon’s surface, allowing its camera to capture a stunning image of the desolate curvature of the Moon itself.
But what might be more astonishing is the crescent in the background. As Carl Sagan said – “that’s here, that’s us, that’s home.” That’s the Earth in a crescent that makes it almost look like a typical crescent Moon. It’s hard to tell that that little crescent is the cradle of our humanity, as it doesn’t look like much, even from not too far away.
UT video on the Artemis Program.
Listed in an ESA press release as “Rising Earth,” this new picture might become the most iconic image from a mission that has had quite a few of them. There was plenty of internet buzz around the videos of Orion flying past the Moon, and some still images from around the same time are truly spectacular. It’s anyone’s guess which, if any, of those images will be remembered as the most important, but Rising Earth certainly has a shot at it.
As the first Artemis mission comes to a close today, it’s important to remember the inspirational aspect of it. Yes, the program’s main goal is to revisit something we first visited almost 60 years ago. But now the imaging technology, along with pretty much all other forms of technology, has advanced enough that the images streaming back to us as part of that program and going to be truly spectacular. Rising Earth may be the first, but it certainly won’t be the last iconic image of the Artemis program.
Lead Image:Rising Earth – Orion captures a crescent Earth with the Moon in the foreground.
Credit – NASA