Two-Planet Perspective from Lunar Orbit

Earth and Mars from LRO
Composite of Earth and Mars imaged in a single NAC frame on 24 May 2014. This amazing view of two planets was visible from lunar orbit when LROC pointed homeward! Mars is about 12 pixels wide; Earth was downscaled by a factor of eight to create this composite image; LROC NAC E1155564561 [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

This inspiring two-planet perspective was acquired in a single NAC image pair as LRO pitched to face the Earth on 24 May 2014. This imaging sequence required a significant amount of planning prior to show time! Practice images of Mars were acquired weeks before to refine the timing and camera settings.

Each NAC image is built from rows of pixels acquired one after another, and then the left and right images are mosaicked together to make a complete NAC pair. If the spacecraft was not moving, the rows of pixels would image the same area over and over; it is the spacecraft motion, combined with fine-tuning of the camera exposure time, that enables the final image, such as this Earth-Mars view.

Mars and Earth in one image
Mars (in white box) and Earth as viewed from lunar orbit on 24 May 2014. LROC NAC E1155564561; Mars has been contrast stretched to improve visibility [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Mars was about 112.5 million km away when this image was acquired, and the Earth was about 376,687 km from LRO. So, Mars was about 300 times farther away from the Moon than was the Earth and appeared as a small sphere of light in the sky from LRO's perspective. Zoom in and out in the image below to explore this exceptional planetary portrait:

The juxtaposition of Earth and Mars seen from the Moon is a poignant reminder that the Moon would make a convenient waypoint for explorers bound for the fourth planet and beyond! In the near-future, the Moon could serve as a test-bed for construction and resource utilization technologies. Longer-range plans may include the Moon as a resource depot or base of operations for interplanetary activities.

Fly from the Earth to Mars in this movie created from the NAC Earth-Mars image: 



Other Amazing LROC Images of Earth and Mars:

In the Shadow of the Moon 

The Earth from the Moon 

Americas from the Moon 


Two Faces of Mars (from the Moon)

Published by J. Stopar on 2 October 2014