NASA releases new up-close picture of Moon taken from ‘flying microwave oven’

NASA has released a brand new close-up shot of the moon.

The photograph was taken by CAPSTONE, which also managed to test a new navigation system that works in a similar way to GPS here on Earth.

The aim of the technology is to help make navigation of the Moon an easier feat in general ahead of the eventual launch of Gateway – a manned space station that will orbit the Moon.

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NASA said: “CAPSTONE, short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, is a microwave oven-sized CubeSat flying a unique, elliptical orbit at the Moon that will be used by Gateway”.

As well as the navigation work done by the spacecraft, the image also showed an up-close take of the Moon, the craters and pockmarks of its surface clear to see.

NASA added: “The spacecraft also captured its first images of the Moon, showing the lunar surface near the Moon's North Pole as CAPSTONE made a close approach to the Moon on May 3.”

CAPSTONE weighs just 55lbs and is designed to operate as what NASA describes as a “pathfinder” for Gateway.

It is designed to help work out and “validate innovative navigation technologies and verifying the dynamics of this halo-shaped orbit” that will make things safer for future spacecraft around the Moon.

“The orbit, formally known as a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO), is significantly elongated,” NASA added.

“Its location at a precise balance point in the gravities of Earth and the Moon, offers stability for long-term missions like Gateway and requires minimal energy to maintain.”

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