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    • By NASA
      This image from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter shows China’s Chang’e 6 lander in the Apollo basin on the far side of the Moon on June 7, 2024. The lander is the bright dot in the center of the image. The image is about 0.4 miles wide (650 meters); lunar north is up.Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University NASA’s LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) imaged China’s Chang’e 6 sample return spacecraft on the far side of the Moon on June 7. Chang’e 6 landed on June 1, and when LRO passed over the landing site almost a week later, it acquired an image showing the lander on the rim of an eroded, 55-yard-diameter (about 50 meters) crater. 
      The LRO Camera team computed the landing site coordinates as about 42 degrees south latitude, 206 degrees east longitude, at an elevation of about minus 3.27 miles (minus 5,256 meters).
      This before and after animation of LRO images shows the appearance of the Chang’e 6 lander. The increased brightness of the terrain surrounding the lander is due to disturbance from the lander’s engines and is similar to the blast zone seen around other lunar landers. The before image is from March 3, 2022, and the after image is from June 7, 2024.Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University The Chang’e 6 landing site is situated toward the southern edge of the Apollo basin (about 306 miles or 492 km in diameter, centered at 36.1 degrees south latitude, 208.3 degrees east longitude). Basaltic lava erupted south of Chaffee S crater about 3.1 billion years ago and flowed downhill to the west until it encountered a local topographic high, likely related to a fault. Several wrinkle ridges in this region have deformed and raised the mare surface. The landing site sits about halfway between two of these prominent ridges. This basaltic flow also overlaps a slightly older flow (about 3.3 billion years old), visible further west, but the younger flow is distinct because it has higher iron oxide and titanium dioxide abundances.
      A regional context map of the Chang’e 6 landing site. Color differences have been enhanced for clarity. The dark area is a basaltic mare deposit; bluer areas of the mare are higher-titanium flows. Contour lines marking 100-meter (about 328 feet) elevation intervals are overlaid to provide a sense of the topography. Image is about 118 miles (190 km) across. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University LRO is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Launched on June 18, 2009, LRO has collected a treasure trove of data with its seven powerful instruments, making an invaluable contribution to our knowledge about the Moon. NASA is returning to the Moon with commercial and international partners to expand human presence in space and bring back new knowledge and opportunities.
      More on this story from Arizona State University's LRO Camera website Media Contact:
      Nancy N. Jones
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Facebook logo @NASAGoddard@NASAMoon@NASASolarSystem @NASAGoddard@NASAMoon@NASASolarSystem Instagram logo @NASAGoddard@NASASolarSystem Share
      Details
      Last Updated Jun 14, 2024 EditorMadison OlsonContactNancy N. Jonesnancy.n.jones@nasa.govLocationGoddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
      Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Earth's Moon Goddard Space Flight Center Planetary Science The Solar System Explore More
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    • By NASA
      4 Min Read Cheers! NASA’s Webb Finds Ethanol, Other Icy Ingredients for Worlds
      Webb MIRI image of a region near the protostar known as IRAS 23385. IRAS 23385 and IRAS 2a. Credits:
      NASA, ESA, CSA, W. Rocha (Leiden University) What do margaritas, vinegar, and ant stings have in common? They contain chemical ingredients that NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has identified surrounding two young protostars known as IRAS 2A and IRAS 23385. Although planets are not yet forming around those stars, these and other molecules detected there by Webb represent key ingredients for making potentially habitable worlds.
      An international team of astronomers used Webb’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) to identify a variety of icy compounds made up of complex organic molecules like ethanol (alcohol) and likely acetic acid (an ingredient in vinegar). This work builds on previous Webb detections of diverse ices in a cold, dark molecular cloud.
      Image A: Parallel Field to Protostar IRAS 23385 (MIRI Image)
      This image at a wavelength of 15 microns was taken by MIRI (the Mid-Infrared Instrument) on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, of a region near the protostar known as IRAS 23385. IRAS 23385 and IRAS 2A (not visible in this image) were targets for a recent research effort by an international team of astronomers that used Webb to discover that the key ingredients for making potentially habitable worlds are present in early-stage protostars, where planets have not yet formed. NASA, ESA, CSA, W. Rocha (Leiden University) What is the origin of complex organic molecules (COMs) ?
      “This finding contributes to one of the long-standing questions in astrochemistry,” said team leader Will Rocha of Leiden University in the Netherlands. “What is the origin of complex organic molecules, or COMs, in space? Are they made in the gas phase or in ices? The detection of COMs in ices suggests that solid-phase chemical reactions on the surfaces of cold dust grains can build complex kinds of molecules.”
      As several COMs, including those detected in the solid phase in this research, were previously detected in the warm gas phase, it is now believed that they originate from the sublimation of ices. Sublimation is to change directly from a solid to a gas without becoming a liquid. Therefore, detecting COMs in ices makes astronomers hopeful about improved understanding of the origins of other, even larger molecules in space.
      Scientists are also keen to explore to what extent these COMs are transported to planets at much later stages of protostellar evolution. COMs in cold ices are thought to be easier to transport from molecular clouds to planet-forming disks than warm, gaseous molecules. These icy COMs can therefore be incorporated into comets and asteroids, which in turn may collide with forming planets, delivering the ingredients for life to possibly flourish.
      The science team also detected simpler molecules, including formic acid (which causes the burning sensation of an ant sting), methane, formaldehyde, and sulfur dioxide. Research suggests that sulfur-containing compounds like sulfur dioxide played an important role in driving metabolic reactions on the primitive Earth.
      Image B: Complex Organic Molecules in IRAS 2A
      NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) has identified a variety of complex organic molecules that are present in interstellar ices surrounding two protostars. These molecules, which are key ingredients for making potentially habitable worlds, include ethanol, formic acid, methane, and likely acetic acid, in the solid phase. The finding came from the study of two protostars, IRAS 2A and IRAS 23385, both of which are so young that they are not yet forming planets. Illustration: NASA, ESA, CSA, L. Hustak (STScI). Science: W. Rocha (Leiden University). Similar to the early stages of our own solar system?
      Of particular interest is that one of the sources investigated, IRAS 2A, is characterized as a low-mass protostar. IRAS 2A may therefore be similar to the early stages of our own solar system. As such, the chemicals identified around this protostar were likely present in the first stages of development of our solar system and later delivered to the primitive Earth.
      “All of these molecules can become part of comets and asteroids and eventually new planetary systems when the icy material is transported inward to the planet-forming disk as the protostellar system evolves,” said Ewine van Dishoeck of Leiden University, one of the coordinators of the science program. “We look forward to following this astrochemical trail step-by-step with more Webb data in the coming years.”
      These observations were made for the JOYS+ (James Webb Observations of Young ProtoStars) program. The team dedicated these results to team member Harold Linnartz, who unexpectedly passed away in December 2023, shortly after the acceptance of this paper.
      This research has been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
      The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
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      Download full resolution images for this article from the Space Telescope Science Institute.
      This research has been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
      Media Contacts
      Laura Betz – laura.e.betz@nasa.gov, Rob Gutro – rob.gutro@nasa.gov
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Christine Pulliam – cpulliam@stsci.edu
      Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
      Related Information
      Molecular Clouds
      Protostars
      Star Lifecycle
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      Last Updated Mar 13, 2024 Editor Stephen Sabia Contact Laura Betz laura.e.betz@nasa.gov Related Terms
      Astrophysics Goddard Space Flight Center James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Protostars Science & Research Stars The Universe View the full article
    • By NASA
      On March 8, 2004, the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit took the first image of Earth from the surface of another planet. The Earth appearing as nothing more than a bright star provided a new perspective on our home planet, a perspective reshaped over the past eight decades as cameras aboard rockets and spacecraft traveled farther and farther away. From sounding rockets in the 1940s and Earth orbiting satellites in the early 1960s to spacecraft and people traveling to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s and since then to spacecraft exploring all reaches of our solar system, the images of Earth they sent back expanded our horizons while showing an ever-smaller pale blue dot in the vastness of space.

      Left: The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit photographed Earth before sunrise in 2004. Right: The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover photographed the Earth-Moon system in 2014.
      Shortly after landing in Mars’ Gusev Crater on Jan. 4, 2004, Spirit began sending to Earth remarkable photos of its surroundings. On March 8, it turned its camera skyward in an attempt to photograph the Martian moon Deimos partially eclipsing the Sun as it transited across its disc. Shortly before sunrise, Spirit’s camera managed to capture Earth as a bright star, appearing much as Venus does to terrestrial observers. This marked the first photograph of Earth from another planetary surface. Nearly a decade passed before another rover, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity, took another photograph of Earth from its location in Mars’ Gale Crater. The image taken on Jan. 31, 2014, from 99 million miles away, also captured the Moon. These images, and others taken of Earth from ever-more distant vantage points over the past eight decades, provided a new perspective of our home planet’s place in our solar system. Enjoy the following postcards of Earth over the decades.

      Left: The first image of Earth taken from space in 1946 by a suborbital rocket, from an altitude of 65 miles. Image credit: courtesy White Sands Missile Range/Applied Physics Laboratory. Middle: The first photograph of Earth taken from orbit, by the Explorer 6 satellite. Right: The first television image of Earth, transmitted by the TIROS-1 weather satellite in 1960.
      On Oct. 24, 1946, more than 10 years before the launch of the first artificial satellite Sputnik, scientists at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico placed a camera on top of a captured German V-2 ballistic missile. As the rocket flew to an altitude of about 65 miles – just above the generally recognized border of outer space – the 35-mm motion picture camera snapped a frame every one and a half seconds. Minutes later, the missile came crashing back down and slammed into the ground at more than 340 miles per hour, but the film survived and gave us our first glimpse of Earth from space. On Aug. 14, 1959, the Explorer 6 satellite took the first photograph of Earth from orbit about 17,000 miles high, but the image lacked detail. On April 1, 1960, from an orbital altitude of about 450 miles, the TIROS-1 weather satellite returned the first of its 23,000 television images of the Earth, most of them of sufficient quality for the satellite’s main purpose, weather forecasting.

      Left: The first full-disk photograph of Earth, taken by the Soviet Molniya 1-3 communications satellite in 1966. Middle: The first image of Earth taken from geostationary orbit, by the Advanced Technology Satellite-1 (ATS-1) satellite in 1966. Right: The first color image of the full Earth from the DODGE (Department of Defense Gravity Experiment) satellite in 1967.
      The Soviet Molniya 1-3 communications satellite took the first photograph showing the Earth as a full disk on May 30, 1966, although the image quality was somewhat poor. On Dec. 11, 1966, the ATS-1 advanced technology satellite beamed back the first photograph of Earth from geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above Ecuador. The Department of Defense Gravity Experiment (DODGE) satellite returned the first color image of the full Earth in August 1967.

      Left: The original photo, top, of Earth taken from lunar orbit by the Lunar Orbiter 1 spacecraft in 1966, and a 2008 digitized version by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP). Image credit: courtesy LOIRP.  Right: The first color image of Earth taken from the surface of the Moon by Surveyor 3 in 1967.
      The primary purpose of early robotic spacecraft to the Moon was to prepare for the crewed Apollo missions that followed, including extensive photography of the lunar terrain from orbit and from the surface. The first of five Lunar Orbiter spacecraft designed to map the Moon’s surface from orbit took the first photograph of Earth from lunar distances on Aug. 23, 1966. A digital reconstruction of the original frame in 2008 as part of the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project removed the scan lines and other imperfections. The Surveyor 3 robotic lander, later visited by the Apollo 12 astronauts, took the first photograph of Earth from the lunar surface on April 30, 1967.

      Left: The famous Earthrise photograph taken during the Apollo 8 crew’s first orbit around the Moon in 1968. Middle left: The first photograph of Earth taken by an astronaut standing on the lunar surface, taken during the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969. Middle right: The famous Blue Marble image taken by Apollo 17 astronauts on their way to the Moon in 1972. Right: Earth and Moon photographed during the Artemis I uncrewed mission in 2022.
      The Apollo missions of the late 1960s and early 1970s returned thousands of stunning and memorable images of humanity’s first exploration of another world. Among them are photographs of the Earth taken by the astronauts that show how small and fragile our planet can appear against the blackness and vastness of space. Arguably, the most famous is the Earthrise photos taken during Apollo 8, the first crewed mission to orbit the Moon in December 1968. The image of the smooth blue ball of Earth appearing suspended over the battered gray lunar terrain provided inspiration for the ecology movement of the time. In July 1969, the first human lunar landing mission, Apollo 11, returned many iconic photographs of Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin on the surface, and also included the first image of the Earth taken by an astronaut on the Moon. In December 1972, astronauts on the final Apollo lunar landing mission, Apollo 17, took the famous Blue Marble image of the Earth from 72,000 miles away on their way to the Moon. More recently, in November 2012, the uncrewed Artemis I mission imaged the Moon and Earth together, from a distance of 268,563 miles from Earth.

      Left: A composite of two separate images of the Earth and Moon, taken by Mariner 10 in 1973 as it headed toward encounters with Venus and Mercury. Middle: The first image of the Earth-Moon system in a single photographic frame taken by Voyager 1 in 1977 as it departed on its journey to explore Jupiter, Saturn, and beyond. Right: The first image of Earth taken by a planetary spacecraft, Galileo, as it made a return encounter with its home planet for a gravity assist in 1990. 
      As planetary spacecraft carried increasingly sophisticated instruments in the 1970s, some turned their cameras toward the Earth as they departed on their long voyages of exploration. In November 1973, a few days after Mariner 10 launched on its mission to explore Venus and Mercury, it snapped separate photographs of the Earth and the Moon, that technicians combined into a composite photo. On Sept. 18, 1977, at a distance of 7.25 million miles, the Jupiter-bound Voyager 1 snapped the first photograph of the Earth-Moon system in a single frame, providing an impression of the view from a spacecraft approaching our home planet. The Galileo spacecraft did exactly that – on Dec. 8, 1990, more than two years after its launch, it passed within 600 miles of Earth, using the planet for a gravity assist to reach Jupiter. During the fly-by, Galileo used its sophisticated instruments and cameras to study Earth as an unexplored planet and detected chemical signatures in atmospheric trace elements associated with life-form activity. 

      Voyager 1’s family portrait of six planets, when the spacecraft was 3.7 billion miles from Earth in 1990.

      Pale Blue Dot Revisited, NASA’s 2020 remastered version of the Voyager 1 image of Earth.
      On Feb. 14, 1990, more than 12 years after it began its journey from Earth and shortly before controller permanently turned off its cameras to conserve power, Voyager 1 spun around and pointed them back into the solar system. In a mosaic of 60 images, it captured a “family portrait” of six of the solar system’s planets, including a pale blue dot called Earth more than 3.7 billion miles away. In February 2020, to commemorate the photograph’s 30th anniversary, NASA released a remastered version of the image of Earth as Pale Blue Dot Revisited.

      MESSENGER’s family portrait of the planets, taken from approximately the orbit of Mercury in 2010.
      Twenty years later, and from a very different part of the solar system, came another family portrait of the planets. From near the orbit of Mercury, the MESSENGER spacecraft took 34 images on Nov. 3 and 16, 2010, that engineers stitched together. The composite shows six planets, Venus, Earth, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Saturn, and even several planetary satellites including the Moon and Jupiter’s four Galilean moons Callisto, Ganymede, Europa, and Io.

      Left: Earth and Moon photographed by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft in orbit around Mars in 2003. Middle: Earth and Moon photographed by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft in orbit around Mars in 2003. Right: Earth and Moon photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars in 2007.
      Even before Spirit returned the first photo of Earth from the surface of Mars, spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet took amazing photos of the Earth-Moon system with their telescopic high-resolution cameras. Mars Global Surveyor took the first photograph of the Earth-Moon system from Mars orbit in May 2003, the two planets 86 million miles apart. Given the Moon’s position in its orbit around Earth, the two bodies appeared close together. Two months later, in July 2003, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft photographed them appearing much further apart, given the Moon’s orbital position. In October 2007, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter used its HiRISE camera to take a more detailed shot of the Earth-Moon system. Because Earth orbits closer to the Sun than Mars, it goes through phases, much as Mercury and Venus do as viewed from Earth.

      The Earth-Moon system as seen from the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn in 2013.
      On July 19, 2013, the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn took a series of images from a distance of about 750,000 miles as the planet eclipsed the Sun. In the event dubbed The Day the Earth Smiled, people on Earth received notification in advance that Cassini would be taking their picture from 900 million miles away, and were encouraged to smile at its camera. In addition to the Earth and Moon, Cassini captured Venus, Mars, and seven of Saturn’s satellites in the photograph.

      Left: The MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit around Mercury took this photograph of Earth and Moon in 2013. Right: The Parker Solar Probe photographed Earth through the solar corona from well inside the orbit of Mercury in 2023.
      On the same day that Cassini imaged Earth and other planets from Saturn, the MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit around Mercury, during a search for possible moons orbiting the small planet, took a photograph of the Earth-Moon system from 61 million miles away. The Parker Solar Probe, during its 16th close pass of the Sun in June 2023, took a series of photographs through the Sun’s corona, imaging several planets including Earth in the process. Engineers stitched the images together to create an amazing video of the solar corona and a coronal mass ejection. The view is from well inside Mercury’s orbit.

      The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter took this mini-family portrait in November 2020.
      The ESA Solar Orbiter spacecraft’s primary objectives focus on studying the Sun from close distances. These orbits enable it to photograph several planets at once. On Nov. 18, 2020, Solar Orbiter imaged Venus, Earth, and Mars in one frame.
      We hope you enjoyed this review of how photographs of Earth over the past 80 years have changed our perspectives of our home planet, and also of our own place in the universe. Future human space explorers, whatever their destinations, will always look back and try to find their home planet in whatever sky it may shine, and hopefully share their experiences with us through photographs we can only dream about today.
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    • By Space Force
      The Commander of U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, participated in an international senior-leader panel during the Air and Space Forces Association’s Warfare Symposium in Aurora, Colorado, Feb. 13.
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