Astronauts traveling within Earth’s largest artificial satellite—the International Space Station (ISS) —can capture unique shots of Earth’s only natural satellite—the Moon. This photo shows a crescent Moon hovering above an orbital sunset as the ISS passed over the Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand. This view offers a symbolic end to the year 2021 and a look toward NASA’s next goal for human-crewed exploration.
The colors fading from orange to dark blue (between Earth’s dark surface and the blackness of space) are layers of the atmosphere. While the crescent Moon is brightly lit, some craters, peaks, and mare regions are faintly visible in the shadows and along the sunlight terminator.
Astronaut photography is not limited to views of Earth. NASA’s handheld astronaut photography began with the Gemini missions in the 1960s and continues today. Photo subjects can range from comets to the surface of the Moon (as taken during the Apollo missions). The tradition of handheld astronaut photography will continue when the Artemis Program returns humans to the Moon.
Astronaut photograph ISS066-E-86969 was acquired on December 6, 2021, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 200 millimeters. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 66 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Andrea Wenzel, Jacobs, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.