NASA Captures Totally Tubular Image Of A Surfboard Object Orbiting The Moon

hero nasa lro surfboard shape
NASA captured a mystical surfboard hovering above the lunar surface with its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The surfboard figure is actually the Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s Danuri lunar orbiter, which orbits the Moon parallel to LRO.

When someone thinks about images of the Moon being sent back to Earth, they don’t typically expect to see something that resembles a surfboard. But this was this case in images from NASA’s LRO spacecraft taken between March 5 and 6, 2024. Of course, this was not a surfboard, but instead a smeared image of Korea’s Danuri lunar orbiter.

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LRO was oriented down 43 degrees from its typical position of looking down at the lunar surface to capture Danuri.

Danuri was captured in a totally tubular manner using LRO’s narrow angle camera during three orbits, while LRO was close enough to the Korean orbiter to snag the shots. Those incredible shots took immaculate timing on the part of the LRO operations team in pointing LRO’s camera array to the right place at the right time. The lunar orbiter appears smeared due to the two spacecraft traveling at speeds of about 7,500mph, or 11,500kph, even though the camera’s exposure time was only 0.338 milliseconds.

While Danuri has only been orbiting the Moon since December 2022, LRO launched on its lunar mission on June 18, 2009. The seasoned spacecraft was the first US mission to the Moon in over a decade, and has created an 3D map of the Moon as part of a program to identify future landing sites and resources.

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This image shows Danuri in the white box near the right-hand corner of the image.

This also is not the first time LRO has sneaked a peek at another spacecraft while orbiting the Moon. The most recent image of another spacecraft was taken on February 24, 2024, when the lunar orbiter grabbed an image of Intuitive Machine’s Nova-C lander, called Odysseus.

Images from LRO will be vital in upcoming Artemis missions, which will place human boots back on the lunar surface for the first time in over 50 years. LRO is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.