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State of the Art: A Trip To the Moon, in Real Time

By David Schonauer   Thursday April 29, 2021


Want to go to the Moon?

It’s  been done before, of course. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s NASA landed 12 astronauts on the lunar surface on six Apollo missions. And now the space agency is planning to put both men and women on the Moon by 2024 with it Artemis program, though we can probably expect that timetable to be adjusted. (Go here for more on that.)

Speaking of the Apollo missions: During the Apollo 14 mission in 1971 — that’s 50 years ago this month — astronaut Alan Shepard famously hit two golf balls to see how far they’d go (the Moon’s gravity is one-sixth of the Earth’s). He more or less shanked his first shot, but space enthusiasts have debated for decades just how far the second ball traveled. Now, reported Ars Technica recently, we have an answer, thanks to the efforts of imaging specialist Andy Saunders, who digitally enhanced archival images from that mission and used them to estimate the final resting spots of the golf balls.

Saunders, who has been working with the United States Golf Association to commemorate Shepard's historical feat, concluded that the first golf ball Shepard hit traveled roughly 24 yards, while the second golf ball traveled 40 yards. Not too far, but the lunar driving record will stand until NASA sends long-hitting golf pro Bryson DeChambeau to the Moon.

At any rate, the Moon still beckons, and you can travel to there, sort of, by watching a new film from astronomical filmmaker Seán Doran, who, noted PetaPixel recently, has processed lunar images captured by the Japanese Kaguya (Selene) lunar orbiter into a four-hour real-time journey around the cold-hearted orb.

Launched in September of 2017, the Japanese spacecraft was equipped with two high-definition TV cameras, which it used to capture photos and videos of the moon. The mission ended in 2009, but, adds PP, in 2016 the Japanese space agency released much of the visual material, and Doran went to work. He denoised,  repaired, and graded the imagery, and retimed it for his film.

Doran has also uploaded a shorter, 30-minute cut which explores various regions on the moon and a low-orbit focused 11-minute video using the same archived database of image, notes PP:

You can follow Doran on Twitter and his YouTube channel.


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