From its position in low lunar orbit, South Korea’s first Moon mission caught a unique glimpse of Earth rising from behind the cratered surface of our natural satellite.
The Korean Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), also known as Danuri, beamed back beautiful black-and-white images of Earth captured by its high-resolution camera. The two images were taken on December 24 and 28 and released by the Korean Aerospace Research Institute on Monday.
The images show a solemn Earth in the distance, while the Moon’s dusty surface appears in the foreground. From our perspective on Earth, we often see the Moon rising above our planet’s surface. But the images taken by Danuri from lunar orbit provide a counterintuitive view of our home planet glimmering behind the Moon’s surface.
Danuri captured the first image when it was 77 miles (124 kilometers) above the lunar surface and the second when it was around 213 miles (344 kilometers) above its surface.
Danuri launched on August 5 on board SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, marking South Korea’s first deep space mission. On December 17, the spacecraft completed its first lunar orbit insertion maneuver and entered into lunar orbit.
The 1,100-pound (500-kilogram) probe is equipped with four science instruments built locally, as well as a NASA camera to capture views of the lunar surface. From its low orbit, Danuri will explore the Moon’s shadowed regions, which could hold water ice.
By launching Danuri, South Korea hopes to advance its lunar exploration, as the orbiter is designed to scope out potential landing spots for future missions to the Moon. South Korea also wants to launch a lander and a rover, in addition to another orbiter, for the second phase of the mission.