The weird motions of planet Earth and its sun will be a fun sight for future NASA astronauts standing on the south pole of the moon, if a new agency animation is any indication.
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland released the short video (opens in new tab) compressing a simulated viewpoint over three months (or a little over three lunar days) into two minutes. You can see Earth bobbing up and down while the sun does a more graceful glide around the horizon.
If you keep a close eye on the video, after a while you'll be treated to an eclipse of Earth passing in front of the sun, which is the opposite of lunar eclipses that we can see from Earth.
"For observers on Earth, this is a lunar eclipse, in which the moon passes through the shadow cast by Earth. Viewed from the moon, however, this is an eclipse of the sun," the NASA studio said in the video description (opens in new tab).
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The virtual camera in the animation is on the rim of Shackleton Crater, partially visible in the bottom right, and is aimed at Earth. This is approximately the same region that NASA is targeting for its Artemis moon-landing missions.
The agency hopes to put boots on the surface later in the 2020s, with a suite of robotic explorers joining the effort. Those payloads, collectively known as the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, may touch down on the moon as early as 2022.
NASA's Artemis 1 mission, an uncrewed loop around the moon and then back to Earth again, is expected to launch in February 2022, the agency announced last week. The mission was delayed several times due to technical issues.
The next planned mission is Artemis 2, a crewed lunar orbiting mission that will fly the first international astronaut (a Canadian) to the moon's vicinity. The very tentative date for that is 2023. NASA then hopes to have Artemis 3, a landing mission, touch down in 2024.
But these dates may change as Artemis 1 is finalized and technology development and funding are further along. The spacesuits for Artemis, for example, appear to be too far behind to make a 2024 deadline, according to NASA's inspector general.
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