Oh. My. Golly. What a shot. Taken in 1998, this awesome image shows NASA’s Lunar Prospector spacecraft shooting into the sky above Cape Canaveral, riding an Athena II rocket. Destination is in sight. Captured in time exposure, the fiery launch tail forms an arch in the foreground, while the moon, near its first quarter phase, looks on, some 250,000 miles away. Prospector will cover the distance in about 5 days. Prepare for blast-off as we explore stunning photos of space launches and wonder what it all means from an environmental point of view.
The Prospector mission carried an array of instruments to map the surface composition and other facets of the Earth’s only natural satellite. The results improved our understanding of the Moon’s origin, evolution and resources, yet we still managed to make our mark there in what some might see as a slightly bungling and absurd manner. From its orbital vantage point, just 63 miles above the Moon’s surface, Prospector was deliberately crashed into a crater near the lunar south pole in a failed attempt to detect the presence of water. Maybe it was worth a shot.
Speaking of shots, check out the one above. It’s another stunner. According to NASA’s website: “Birds don’t fly this high. Airplanes don’t go this fast. The Statue of Liberty weighs less. No species other than human can even comprehend the event. The launch of a rocket bound for space inspires awe and challenges description.” Nice words to accompany an even nicer image. What is it that so challenges description? The Space Shuttle Atlantis, lifting off to drop by on the International Space Station in 2001. It’s a case of blink and you’ll miss it with Atlantis, which is due to be retired in 2010.