Left image: NASA 1966. Right image: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University 2015
Then & Now: Earthrise
Views of the Earth from lunar orbit as taken by the Lunar Orbiter 1 and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft.
On August 23, 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1, the first American spacecraft to orbit the Moon, took the first photo of Earth as seen from lunar orbit. The primary mission of this robotic spacecraft was to select safe landing sites for the Surveyor and Apollo missions that would eventually lead humans to the surface of the Moon. In 2008, this earthrise image was revived and restored by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project at NASA Ames Research Center. You can view the updated image here.
On October 12, 2015, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captured a series of 12 photos that were processed to create this stunning image of Earth. In the foreground, we get a glimpse of the Moon’s crater, Compton, located on the far side of the Moon. At the time of capturing this image, the spacecraft was about 134 kilometers (83 miles) above the crater, traveling faster than 1,600 meters per second (3,580 miles per hour) relative to the lunar surface below.
Though it experiences 12 earth rises every day, LRO’s primary mission requires the spacecraft to focus on imaging the lunar surface. It rarely has the opportunity to snap a photo of Earth such as this one. Occasionally, LRO moves its camera to observe the extremely thin lunar atmosphere and perform calibration measurements. During these movements, sometimes Earth passes through the camera's field of view and produces images like this.