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They may look grainy or overexposed to the untrained eye, but the new images of the moon sent by an unmanned NASA probe early Tuesday left scientists on Earth rejoicing. I can take a better picture of the Moon with a disposable 35mm camera!
The visible and infrared cameras on LCROSS - designed to scan the moon from much closer than Tuesday's flyby - are working, NASA officials said, and that was the point of the first images.
They were taken by a camera not designed to shoot the moon from so far out, and they gave scientists a taste of things to come.
"The team is very pleased with the data that we received from the moon," said Jonas Dino, a spokesperson at NASA's Ames Research Center overseeing the LCROSS mission. "These raw images, from an altitude of 8,000 to 10,000 km, prove that the instruments are healthy and returning good data."
Modest New Moon Images Leave NASA Elated
On Tuesday, LCROSS calibrated its instruments while zipping around the moon in a flyby that came within 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of the lunar surface at its closest. The probe's camera images, however, should be at their best on Oct. 9, when they watch from about 370 miles (600 km) away as LCROSS unleashes its attached 2.5-ton Centaur rocket stage to crash into a moon crater.