South Korea’s lunar orbiter Danuri has taken its first pictures of Earth after being inserted into the Moon’s orbit late last year.
Although they’re only in black and white, the images are a reminder that Danuri – a portmanteau of the Korean words for ‘Moon’ and ‘enjoy’ – is now far from home.
The spacecraft was launched in August last year on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle and entered the Moon’s orbit in late December. This makes it the first South Korean spacecraft to be launched into interplanetary space.
Although the images are stunning, taking Earthrise images isn’t Danuri’s only job. The satellite has already tested an ‘interplanetary Internet’ by sending a music video of the K-pop group BTS.
These Earth images were taken between December 24 and January 1 by a high-resolution camera called the Lunar Terrain Imager, which will be used to find a new landing site for a second lunar exploration mission.
One of the other cameras on board – ShadowCam – will help determine if frost or ice deposits are found in the permanently shadowed regions on the Moon.
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There’s also a magnetometer to test magnetic strength, polarisation imaging, and a gamma ray spectrometer to test the chemical composition of areas of the Moon.
The South Korean satellite joins a number of recent moon orbiters – including multiple US satellites, China’s Chang’e 5, and India’s Chandrayaan-2.
However, compared to Earth’s burgeoning satellite collection, it must seem a little lonely out there.
Originally published by Cosmos as South Korea’s lunar orbiter has just taken a breathtaking ‘Earthrise’
Jacinta Bowler is a science journalist at Cosmos. They have a undergraduate degree in genetics and journalism from the University of Queensland and have been published in the Best Australian Science Writing 2022.
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