If this doesn’t tug at your heart’s space strings, I don’t know what will.
What we’re seeing here is a video made from images captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it flew past Earth on October 9, 2013. This is the first time a video has been made of the Moon orbiting our planet from beyond the Earth-Moon system*, and, in effect, it’s what a future human space traveler would see as they return home.
It’s been 15 years since the first piece of what we now know as the International Space Station left the surface of our planet. It was Russia’s Zarya module, launched aboard a Proton rocket on Nov. 20, 1998, and the U.S. followed suit two weeks later with the Unity module sent aboard the shuttle Endeavour. Since then, in what is truly an international effort, the Station was assembled piece by piece until its ultimate ‘official’ completion in 2011 (more research instruments and upgrades have been added since then, of course.)
Orbiting the planet 16 times every day and consistently occupied since 2000, the ISS is not only an invaluable space research lab but also a testament to what we humans can do when we cooperate successfully and focus our energies and abilities toward a common goal, overcoming the challenges of national politics, economic difficulties, and even the barriers of language and culture. It is a lofty achievement, but the work that is done there each day is for the benefit of everyone.
And don’t forget about the view! Our planet is quite beautiful from 260 miles up — and the video above, assembled from time-lapse photos taken from the ISS and edited by David Peterson, shows that wonderfully. See a collection of photos taken from the Space Station here.
“Station is truly an engineering marvel and a testament to what we can accomplish when we all work together. I think one of the most enduring legacies will be the international cooperation we have achieved in building and operating it. It has provided us the framework for how we will move forward as we explore beyond our home planet, not as explorers from any one country, but as explorers from planet Earth.”
– Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana
Read more about the 15th anniversary of ISS here, and check out a cool infographic of Station facts and figures below:
Today’s the day! NASA’s Juno* spacecraft, launched back on August 5, 2011 (I should know, I was there) will get a little help from its friends (that’s us!) as it passes by Earth to get a gravitational power-boost on its way to Jupiter.
The exact time of Juno’s closest approach is 3:21 p.m. EDT (12:21 PDT / 19:21 UTC).
But wait, you ask… why would Juno come back to Earth after 2 years to get to Jupiter? Isn’t that losing distance? It might seem that way, but in space travel it’s all about saving energy. Bill Nye (yes, the Science Guy) explains:
I could say “how have I never heard of this!?” but the truth is I wasn’t blogging about space in February 2006 when this image was taken. Still, it’s no less incredible 7 1/2 years later! But if you’re not already familiar with this, it may not be exactly what you think…
On July 19 did you wave at Saturn as Cassini was aiming its camera back our way? If you did (and if you sent a photo of you waving to JPL, like I did) you’re in this awesome new image, a compilation of 1400 submitted photos from assembled into a mosaic of Earth, a planet-wide wave to a spacecraft 900 million miles from home.
So did you get out and Wave at Saturn on The Day the Earth Smiled? If you did (and even if you didn’t) here’s how you — and everyone else on Earth — looked to the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn, 898.4 million miles away.
As Carl Sagan famously said, “That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.” On that bright point of light, the entirety of our world — past and present — resides. And just below it and to the left is the Moon… still to date the farthest that humans have ever physically ventured.
It’s a sobering image, but also quite beautiful… as well as deceiving in its simplicity as only now do humans have the technology to witness the entire planet and its lone moon as such tiny specks of distant light. Still, during the exploration of our solar system, it’s important to take a moment to look back home.