Smile, Planet! Orion Sent the First Photo of Earth From 58,000 Miles Away and You're in It

Earth seen from Orion Space Craft during the first phase of the Artemis I mission to the Moon, November 16, 2022 14 photos
Photo: NASA
Orion Space CraftCameras Installing on OrionSLS before its historic trip to the moon above itLiftoff for Artemis IOrion takes a Selfie with us in the backgroundArtemis missionsArtemis missionsArtemis missionsArtemis missionsArtemis missionsOrion camera arrayAn Orion Camera being inspectedAn Orion Camera being inspected
Seventy-six years ago, the world got its first glimpse of the cosmic bird’s eye view over our planet from the first photograph ever taken from space. Today, November 16, 2022, the grandest selfie in the history of humankind comes to us thanks to the cameras on Orion, the uncrewed but human-capable spacecraft going to the Moon. It’s like a drone photo, just times one trillion.
As the astronaut and former ISS commander Alexander Gerst says: “Smile, you’re on camera! (…) Everyone of us humans is on that photo. Really, everyone.” Hopefully, next time, a few people will be missing from the global eight-billion-people photo. The astronauts going for the Moon will not be in the big picture (since they’ll be in the module).

The photo was taken from an altitude – or perhaps we should say distance? – of 58,000 miles (93,333 kilometers) a few hours after the Space Launch System took off for the Artemis I trip past the Moon and back to Earth.

It’s the first time in half a century that a human-rated spacecraft captures an image of our planet. Granted, this mission is crewless, but Orion will take astronauts to the Moon in the not-too-distant future if all goes as planned. The spacecraft is packed with cameras (16 of them) tasked with providing critical mission data back to Earth and navigating the reusable cosmic vehicle.

That’s right; the latest Moon Mission uses highly sophisticated cosmic imagery to determine the module’s location. While it doesn’t sound like much, picture this (pun intended): several special cameras take photos of the surrounding star fields, Sun, Moon, and Earth, and the images are compared to sky maps in Orion’s computers to pinpoint the craft’s precise position.

Several other cameras are used to navigate – read more about them here – but it will be a while until we get clear pictures from the Artemis I mission. Because it’s not first-hand operated, the craft relies on computers to get to where it needs to go and return safely. Vast amounts of data (think astronomical values) are necessary for permanent communication with the spaceship.

Therefore, we’ll have to settle with low-res images like the one in this article. 4K video streams and pics are not the real-time priority of this historic space flight. However, we’ll keep an eye on Orion and the imagery it produces, and we will keep you posted.

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About the author: Razvan Calin
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After nearly two decades in news television, Răzvan turned to a different medium. He’s been a field journalist, a TV producer, and a seafarer but found that he feels right at home among petrolheads.
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