…and thanks for all the photos. (And amazing HD vids too!)

The final hours of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s moon-mapping KAGUYA orbiter are upon us…on Wednesday, June 10, at 2:30 PM EST (18:30 GMT) the orbiter will end its mission in a controlled – but no less fatal – impact onto the lunar surface. The exact location is marked here with a red star. It will be on the Earth-facing side of the moon, so I assume there will be many lenses focused in that direction (in those places where it’s dark enough to see the moon), hoping to catch a glimpse of the event.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Launched in September of 2007, the KAGUYA mission has brought us some amazing high-definition images and video of our partner in space, our own moon. Our threshold to the rest of the universe, and the only other place humankind has ever stepped foot on, we still have a lot to learn about the moon. KAGUYA has spent the last year and a half in ponderous orbit…mapping, photographing and using advanced spectrometers build our knowledge about the moon’s surface and composition. Formed from the material of the early Earth itself, flung into orbit by a catastrophic collision 4+ billion years ago, learning about the moon is learning about our own world. It is a piece of ourselves, frozen in time and suspended, gleaming, in the darkness.

The mission is a noble one, and its time is nearly over.

Among all the fantastic images and videos returned by KAGUYA the most unique and spellbinding has to be the one below. Taken from lunar orbit, it shows the gradual “rising” of the Earth over the moon’s darkened horizon during a penumbral eclipse event…i.e., a total eclipse of the moon. The Earth, backlit by the sun, slowly appears as a thin ring of light filtered through our atmosphere until the sun’s disk eventually peeks around the lower right corner, its brilliance filling the lens with light. This has never before been seen from the moon’s perspective. (It helps to picture the lunar horizon slowly moving downward from the camera’s perspective, revealing the Earth’s “diamond ring”…since the scene was in darkness you can’t discern the moon’s surface specifically.)

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More videos from KAGUYA can be found on the JAXA YouTube Channel.

I can only assume that KAGUYA’s cameras will be running until the last moment, documenting its final flight in high definition. If this is the case, we should be in for some interesting farewell footage. If not, we will always have haunting clips like the one above to remember the mission by. Thanks again KAGUYA, and the team at JAXA for making it all happen.

Video credit: JAXA/NHK


  1. Bill says:

    Wow, I can’t believe this is ending already. It gave us some of the best footage ever.


    1. J. Major says:

      No kidding. And sad to see it come to such a definitively sudden end too. Glad JPL didn’t make the Mars rovers drive over a cliff after their initial 90-day mission was over!


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