The moon floats just above Earth’s life-giving atmosphere in a gorgeous photo snapped from the International Space Station (ISS) by NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins.
“As beautiful as the Earth is, I can’t seem to take my eyes off of the moon. Every moonset on @Space_Station brings us one step closer to earthrise on the moon as we conduct scientific research and develop new technologies that will help pave the way to the lunar surface,” Watkins wrote in a June 9 Twitter post (opens in new tab) that featured the amazing moon photo.
All astronauts are entranced by such views, but Watkins’ sense of wonder may be especially acute; this is her first spaceflight. She’s one of the four astronauts of SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission for NASA, which arrived at the orbiting lab on April 27 for a six-month stay.
In pictures: Amazing launch photos of SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission
Watkins’ three crewmates are fellow NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines, and the European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti. Hines is a rooke spaceflyer as well; both Lindgren and Cristoforetti have been to the ISS once before.
Watkins’ focus on the moon is understandable: She, like Lindgren, is part of the 18-astronaut “Artemis team,” the first group selected to fly in NASA’s Artemis program of lunar exploration.
Artemis aims to land astronauts on the lunar surface in the mid-2020s and establish a long-term, sustainable human presence on and around Earth’s natural satellite by the end of the decade. NASA officials have also said that the program will put the first woman and the first person of color on the moon. (Twelve astronauts landed on the moon during NASA’s Apollo program; all of them were white men.)
We don’t know if Watkins or Lindgren will hit the gray dirt anytime soon; NASA has yet to announce mission assignments for the Artemis astronauts.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).