What It Would Look Like to Orbit the Moon

By Megan Garber

On December 14, as NASA's GRAIL mission came to a close, the mission's Ebb spacecraft flew above the northern hemisphere of the far side of the moon. The little spaceship -- a vehicle about the size of a washing machine -- flew at a distance of just six tiny miles above the lunar surface, sweeping over the dusty, pock-marked lunar landscape near the Jackson impact crater. In the process, Ebb's forward-facing camera captured a series of images taken at breathtakingly close range -- images that, though they look like something out of a '60s TV show, are in fact as real as they come. They allow us, vicariously, to sweep the surface of the moon.

The video above -- comprised of hundreds of those frames, combined and played at six times the rate of Ebb's actual orbital motion -- represents some of the last work Ebb would do on behalf of humanity: Three days after these images were taken, on December 17, Ebb would collide with the lunar surface, crashing into a mountain near the moon's north pole.

The footage itself begins at second 25 of the video.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/01/what-it-would-look-like-to-orbit-the-moon/267060/