Superb Imagery of NASA Rocket Flying Over the Moon Captured for First Time in Decades

The unbelievably clear photos were taken thanks to a mixture of luck, timing, and skill.
Fabienne Lang
Rocket passing in front of Moonsvenry/Instagram

Incredible images of a rocket flying in front of the Moon have been captured and shared online by a photographer in the U.S.

Steven Rice had a long-time fantasy of snapping such an event, and his dream came true on the night of October 2nd at 9:16 PM ETD, per Business Insider.

Rice discovered that NASA would be conducting a resupply mission launch operated by Northrop Grumman that would see the Cygnus NG-14 cargo spaceship fly past the Moon, and he knew he couldn't miss snapping it.

Professional launch photographers believe this to be the first time in twenty or so years that such clear images of a rocket flying in front of the Moon have been captured, per Business Insider.


A dream come true

"It's been in my mind for a long time as a fantasy, because — living up here — I don't get too many launches," meaning near his home, explained Rice to Business Insider

Rice's dream came true when he heard of the resupply rocket launch happening just a three and a half-hour drive away from his home in Philadelphia. As per Rice's information from Northrop Grumman, the mission was due to fly 5,000 pounds (2,267 kilograms) of air, food, water, spacesuit parts, and scientific experiments up to the International Space Station (ISS), including a brand new $23 million space toilet. 

However, it's no easy feat successfully snapping images of a fast-flying rocket as it passes in front of the Moon for mere seconds. A mixture of luck, timing, and skill is needed, and Rice proved that he had all three in abundance on that night in early October. 

How did he do it?

So Rice made all the calculations, checked specific apps and maps of the surrounding launch zone, and figured out he would best catch the event on the side of the road near a cornfield, 3.4 miles (5.4 kilometers) away from the launch site, as per his account to Business Insider.

Rice knew he had to be in the perfect spot to start snapping pictures approximately 22 seconds after liftoff. That's not a lot of leeway to mess things up. 

With only 16 minutes to spare, however, Rice realized he was standing in the wrong spot and had to rush to move all his gear to the right spot, a few lamposts down the road.

Luckily for all of us, Rice made it on time to snap nine stunning pictures of the rocket flashing past the moon, as well as filming the event. He's shared the photos on his Instagram account and the video on his YouTube page.

View this post on Instagram

I captured one of my dream shots during the NG-14 launch two nights ago. Moon & rocket (carrying a space toilet, no less). Swipe over for 8 more photos in the sequence and check out that superheated plume from the twin RD-181 engines. This occurred roughly 22 seconds after liftoff and was shot from a distance of 3.4 miles (5.5km). For reference, the Antares rocket is 139ft/42.5m long and 13ft/3.9m wide. . 2020.10.02, 9:16 PM Sony A6500, vintage 60-300mm, f/8, ISO 400, 1/320s. . Planning a shot like this can be pretty exhaust-ing, so an enthusiastic shoutout to @flightclubio for making it possible. . #NG14 #CRS14 #antares #cygnus #northropgrumman #nasa #wallopsflightfacility #midatlanticregionalspaceport #iss #spacestation #internationalspacestation @ISS @nasawallops #wallops #wallopsisland #rocketlaunch #rocket #a6500 #youresa #universetoday #ipulledoverforthis #moonawards #moonoftheday #silhouette #lunartransit

A post shared by Steve (@svenry) on

Awe sets in as you look at the images and then the footage, realizing just how tricky it would have been to take such incredible images of such a spectacular event.

What's even more fascinating is that Rice used a tripod and a 300-millimeter (11-inch) telephoto lens that only cost him $20 from eBay. He also used another camera on another tripod, which shot in 4K ultra-high resolution and was set up with a small telescope attached to it. The latter was set to film the entire moment, which turned out to be the video you can watch on YouTube.

Check out the video below:



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