Remember when the moon seemed so far away? 13



View Profile

As Nasa’s New Horizons speeds past Pluto, the world is set to learn a whole lot more about the dwarf planet. And, as we eagerly await news from the spacecraft, which is currently out of touch with Earth, we are remembering a similar time, half a century ago, when mankind plumbed the depths of space exploration by reaching the moon.

In 1964, Ranger 7, an unmanned spacecraft took the first images of the moon, which are, even though the lens of time, extraordinary. The Rangers were designed to take images of the moon’s surface, transmitting those images back to the Earth; the craft were destroyed upon impact.

It took the US six attempts to get that grainy, informative, mind-blowing shot back home – a failure rate that meant the program attracted the nickname “shoot and hope”.

This is the first image of our moon’s surface, taken by Ranger 7:


51 years later, we’re still in awe of the universe out there, and while the human drive to explore remains the same, some things have changed.

For one, the world saw the most detailed picture of Pluto for the first time via the Facebook owned photo-sharing social media platform Instagram. Nasa gave Instagram an hour-long head start on the first image before officially releasing it.

NASA social media manager John Yembrick said the space agency made this decision to “engage new audiences”, presumably speaking about millennials and and Gen-Y who may have grown up thinking space is, like, whatever, just right there.

Here is the moment the world (via Instagram) first saw detail of Pluto’s surface:

Gorgeous Pluto! The dwarf planet has sent a love note back to Earth via our New Horizons spacecraft, which has traveled more than 9 years and 3+ billion miles. This is the last and most detailed image of Pluto sent to Earth before the moment of closest approach, which was at 7:49 a.m. EDT Tuesday – about 7,750 miles above the surface — roughly the same distance from New York to Mumbai, India – making it the first-ever space mission to explore a world so far from Earth. This stunning image of the dwarf planet was captured from New Horizons at about 4 p.m. EDT on July 13, about 16 hours before the moment of closest approach. The spacecraft was 476,000 miles (766,000 kilometers) from the surface. Images from closest approach are expected to be released on Wednesday, July 15. Image Credit: NASA #nasa #pluto #plutoflyby #newhorizons#solarsystem #nasabeyond #science

A photo posted by NASA (@nasa) on

The image was beamed down  an hour or so before New Horizons approached the closest point in its orbit around Pluto. It sped past at 14 kilometres per second, at just 12,500 kilometres from the “tiny” planet.

The probe will grab many more images and other data and scientists already have colour data, which may be released shortly.

The images to come will be ten times the resolution of this stunning shot, an incredible feat for mankind, photography and imaging, and social media.

Do you remember how you felt seeing images of the moon for the first time? Do you think the same feeling apply to this mission to Pluto? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I think the whole this is amazing and what wonderful images we are getting of this far off planet

  2. It is all so amazing, however I really feel that there are so many issues on planet earth that need immediate attention and that the money would be better spent here.

    1 REPLY
  3. Hopefully we will see much more as New Horizons heads into the unknown, we lived in a privileged time to see been seeing these images. Thousand of generations before us have never seen this

  4. I am reminded of the two blonds in Brisbane who were sitting together at night and looking up at the sky. One asks: “I wonder what is closer, the moon or Melbourne?” The other replies: “Duhh…can you see Melbourne from here?”

  5. I remember myself and my Dad watching the live landing on the moon. Dad had his camera and tripod ready to capture this. I still have the daily newspaper with that story.

  6. Our universe is beautiful as probably are the others. Regrettably, until we develop better means of propulsion, we’re not going to Mars, Pluto or anywhere else.
    I often wonder whether the billions spent on these type missions might be better spent feeding the poor, helping the diseased, but then I realise that money is not the solution to their / our problems. We are still bogged down by religion and its associated intolerance. Until we cast off supernatural nonsense, money will be of little benefit so we may as well go planet exploring.

  7. Enjoy all the photos, people – there won’t be any more of this planet for the next 200-odd years, as this planet is rapidly heading much further from the sun, thanks to its strange, rather elongated orbit.
    At its closest approach, it actually comes closer to the sun than the (normally) next nearest planet, Neptune. I think it last did this in the 1980s?
    I understand that Pluto and it’s “satellite” are also doing a kind of celestial “dance,” orbiting each other, with the other three moons orbiting that lot. I doubt if anyone knows what the physics are, controlling that.
    To those who ask, why do we bother, I say – the more we understand about the other planets and their moons, the more we will know about our planet, life upon it, and how lucky we are to even exist.

    1 REPLY
    • *Pluto and its “satellite,” Charon*

  8. mike here-Amazing feat, flying past Pluto. Since 1964 this space craft has been flying at some incredible speeds & in a few years & a few more years will actually leave our galaxy, passing Alpha Centaura in an incredible number of years. Amazingly it is I assume recharging its batteries all the time from the available light in space, my dampener on this feat is simply, if it can do that, why am I required to carry under my car bonnet about 10 kilos of lead & acid to start my car? Why do I have to continually have to fill my tank with extremely expensive fossil fuels? Why does my vehicle carry only a 2 year warranty when they could confidentally predict that this space craft would not only be able to pass Pluto in 2015 after leaving earth in 1964 & still be sending back photos? In the words of a love her or leave her famous person ‘PLEASE EXPLAIN’. Even so, congratulations to all involved, an amazing feat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *