The far side of the Moon was first imaged by the Russian Lunik 3 probe in October 1959. Before that no one knew what was on the face of the Moon forever turned away from Earth; indeed Patrick Moore cites the live broadcast of the event on The Sky at Night as one of the show’s greatest moments.
Now a new video from one of NASA’s two GRAIL craft has revealed the Moon’s cratered far side from pole to pole. The footage was taken to test one of the GRAIL mission’s MoonKAMS, or Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students. The cameras are the first instruments on board a NASA planetary mission dedicated entirely to educational outreach and will allow pupils across America to select regions of the Moon to study.
The MoonKAM program is led by Sally Ride, the first US woman in space. “We have had great response from schools around the country; more than 2,500 signed up to participate so far,” said Ride. “In mid-March, the first pictures of the Moon will be taken by students using MoonKAM. I expect this will excite many students about possible careers in science and engineering.”
The twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) spacecraft achieved lunar orbit on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Now dubbed ‘Ebb’ and ‘Flow’, they will examine the gravitational make-up of the Moon to map its interior structure.