Space Shuttle Discovery sees Earth's Moon

The Moon, as seen from Earth orbit

A rarely seen phenomenon: the Earth's atmosphere bending the light from the full Moon thereby compressing it, as seen from the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Over thirty years after the last Apollo mission visited the Moon in 1972, there is still much that we do not know about our nearest satellite. For example, how was it created? What role did it play in the formation and evolution of Earth?

ESA's SMART-1 mission, launched in September 2003, may help to answer these questions. As well as testing new propulsion technology, SMART-1 will make the first comprehensive study of chemical elements in the lunar surface. It will also investigate the theory that the Moon was formed following the violent collision of a smaller planet with Earth, four and a half thousand million years ago.

Last update: 13 September 2004

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