Danuri, South Korea’s first ever spacecraft to orbit the Moon, has sent back stunning images of the lunar surface and the Earth beyond.
The spacecraft – which has the official name of Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, but is better known as Danuri – left Earth on board a SpaceX rocket in August. It has been travelling towards the Moon ever since.
Last month, it arrived in lunar orbit. Since then it has been moving closer to the Moon’s surface, with the aim of gathering information about it.
That scientific mission will start next month. But new images show the Earth rising out over the top of the Moon, in a perspective of our planet that is rarely seen.
The precise detail of the camera on board the lunar orbiter means that it is possible to see the craters on the lunar surface from close-up, as well as the vast size of Earth in the background.
The images are a test of the lunar orbiter, which itself is a major test of South Korea’s plans to explore space.
Such images of the Moon will allow scientists to find a landing location for future exploration of the Moon’s surface by a follow-up mission that South Korea hopes will include a lunar lander.
The spacecraft will also be testing a range of other technologies, including a “space internet” system that allows for broadcast between different planets. Danuri has been beaming back images using that system, in the hope that it proves reliable enough for future missions.
It features a range of different science instruments, both for taking images of the Moon as well as examining it in other ways, such as its magnetic field.