The amazing video below is a showcase of spectacular imagery obtained by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Kaguya/SELENE spacecraft which orbited the Moon or a year and eight months and returned stunning views from its HDTV camera suite. A must-watch!

KAGUYA: The lunar orbiter
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s KAGUYA (SELENE) taking “Full Earth-rise” by HDTV on April 5, 2008. Aspect ratio 16:9 and HD quality in English narration. (C)JAXA/NHK
“The Kaguya moves towards the south pole on the far side of the Moon. The Blue Earth has appeared from the horizon. This is the earthrise captured by the Kaguya’s high-definition TV cameras.”
“The Sun is located right behind the Kaguya lunar orbiter. The Sun’s light is projected directly on to the Earth which appears round like a full moon. In this footage, the Earth’s southern hemisphere appears on top.”
“This is a spectacular view of the beautiful planet we call home.”

Nicknamed Kaguya (which was selected by the general public), Notes 1, SELENE (Selenological and Engineering Explorer) was the second Japanese lunar orbiter spacecraft. Notes 2

The spacecraft was launched on September 14, 2007, from Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC) in Japan. It orbited the Moon for 20 months. On June 10, 2009, the main orbiter was instructed to impact on the lunar surface near the crater Gill, which is located near the southeastern limb of the Moon.

It consisted of a main orbiting satellite at about 100 kilometers (62 miles) altitude and two small satellites (Relay Satellite and VRAD Satellite) in polar orbit.

Earth from the Japanese Moon orbiter SELENE (Kaguya)
Earth from the Japanese Moon orbiter SELENE (Kaguya).

The mission’s major results include:

  • Improved lunar global topography maps. This detailed altitude and geological data are provided to Google for free to make Google Moon 3-D.
  • Detailed gravity map of the far side of the Moon.
  • First optical observation of the permanently shadowed interior of the crater Shackleton. Named after Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, it is an impact crater that lies at the south pole of the Moon. The crater is 21 km in diameter and 4.2 km deep. The interior of the crater is perpetually in shadow (a crater of eternal darkness). The low-temperature interior of this crater functions as a cold trap that may capture and freeze volatiles shed during comet impacts on the Moon.
  • Evidence of Earth’s oxygen being transported to the moon via magnetospheric ions.

KAGUYA was descended to the 50 km (31 miles) altitude from February 1, 2009, and then was descended again to 10-30 km (6.2-18.6 miles) in Lower altitude (Perilune) from April 16, 2009. Finally, KAGUYA was impacted to the south-east of the near side of the Moon on June 10, 2009 (GMT).

Notes

  1. Kaguya is the protagonist of Kaguya-hime no Monogatari, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” or “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”, a mysterious girl from the Moon, who was discovered as a baby inside the stalk of a glowing bamboo plant. It is a 10th-century Japanese Monogatari (fictional prose narrative) containing Japanese folklore. It is considered the oldest extant Japanese prose narrative although the oldest manuscript dates to 1592.
  2. Launched on January 24, 1990, the Hiten Spacecraft was Japan’s first lunar probe, the first robotic lunar probe since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 in 1976, and the first lunar probe launched by a country other than the Soviet Union or the United States. It was also the first deep space probe that performed an aerobraking maneuver (flying the vehicle through the atmosphere to slow down it). On March 30, 1991, after the ninth lunar swing-by and second aerobraking maneuver, the primary mission of Hiten was concluded.

Sources

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