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ENORMOUS BACKSIDE FILMED FROM SPACE in moon flypast

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US space agency NASA has released a new video of the back side of the Moon, filmed by its newly-arrived duo of GRAIL lunar probe craft. Here it is:

Arriving in lunar orbit as the human race welcomed in the New Year here on Earth, the twin Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) craft's primary mission is to work together to measure the Moon's gravitational field with tremendous precision, potentially allowing boffins to make many discoveries. However each of the washing-machine sized craft - recently named Ebb and Flow by American schoolchildren - also carries a Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students (MoonKAM) camera, intended to let kids get into the space probe business also. The vid above is the first to be released from the MoonKAMs.

Here's some commentary from NASA:

In the video, the north pole of the moon is visible at the top of the screen as the spacecraft flies toward the lunar south pole. One of the first prominent geological features seen on the lower third of the moon is the Mare Orientale, a 560-mile-wide (900 kilometer) impact basin that straddles both the moon's near and far side.

The clip ends with rugged terrain just short of the lunar south pole. To the left of center, near the bottom of the screen, is the 93-mile-wide (149 kilometer) Drygalski crater with a distinctive star-shaped formation in the middle. The formation is a central peak, created many billions of years ago by a comet or asteroid impact.

"The quality of the video is excellent and should energise our MoonKAM students as they prepare to explore the moon," adds Maria Zuber, GRAIL boffinry honcho, who works at MIT.

There's more about the GRAIL mission from NASA here, and more on the MoonKAMs specifically here. ®

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