Saturday, September 25, 2010

APOD Photo #1

The picture I chose was more interesting in back story than many of the others. It was shot right before the Ranger 7 that took the picture crashed a mere 17 minutes later. The picture depicts the surface of the moon, violent with craters and various imperfections. It is a simple picture, yet it was snapped minutes before the ranger completed its mission and smashed into the surface of the moon. One would ask why it crashed, but as it was in orbit in 1964, the technology may have not been advanced enough to facilitate navigating the moon's surface at a close range and the probe was therefore sent on a suicide mission in order to get the closeups of the moon's surface.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download   the highest resolution version available.

"Explanation: On July 31, 1964, Ranger 7 crashed into the Moon. Seventeen minutes before impact it snapped this picture - the first image of the Moon ever taken by a U.S. spacecraft. Of course Ranger 7 was intended to crash, transmitting close-up pictures of the lunar surface during its final moments. The Ranger program's goal was to begin high resolution mapping of the lunar surface in preparation for a future lunar landing. This first image covered 360 kilometers from top to bottom and is centered in the Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds). The large crater at middle right, Alphonsus, is 108 kilometers in diameter.

On July 31, 1999,
Lunar Prospector crashed into the Moon. During its successful 1 year mission to map the Moon's global properties from orbit, Lunar Prospector confirmed indications that water-ice could be trapped in permanently shadowed craters near the lunar poles. Its mission complete, controllers intentionally targeted the spacecraft to impact a crater wall, hoping that water could be more directly detected in the resulting debris cloud - although the chances of a successful detection were considered low. Astronomers analyzing the data recently announced that no visible signature of water was found, so the tantalizing case forwater on the Moon remains open."

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