earthriseI’ve just received a review copy of the upcoming National Geographic Channel program Direct from the Moon.

The piece kicks off the channel’s Exploration Week on Monday, December 17, at 9:00 p.m.

Centered around stunning new imagery from the Japanese space agency’s lunar satellite Kaguya (also known as Selene, and launched in September 2007), Direct from the Moon features new interviews from Apollo moonwalkers Buzz Aldrin and Jack Schmitt, as well as an intriguing set of interviews from the Japense researchers analyzing the data Kaguya is sending home.

The show is worth watching just for two sequences alone: an Earthrise, from which the shot above is a still, and a 3D terrain map of Tyco crater revealing the terraces, valleys, and central peak in never-before-seen detail.

TycoTyco seems to have been formed by an impact roughly around the same time as the Yucatan Peninsula impact therorized to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

But while the terrestrial impact crater is hidden underwater, Tyco is naked for Kaguya, and now us, to see, and to draw conclusions from about what happened here on earth so long ago.

Going back even further, one Japanese researcher interviewed for the program, has concluded that lunar and terrestrial strikes originated from the asteroid belt, and that leads to the intriguing idea that iron from asteroid impacts interacted with elements in Earth’s early oceans to create amino acids, the building blocks of life.

Exciting as it is, Direct from the Moon feels like it’s trying to do too many things at once in the mere 50 minutes alloted to it: is it an Apollo documentary? A back-to-the-moon call to action? Or a presentation of exciting new findings made possible by Kaguya?

I’ll never get tired of Apollo eye candy, and I could watch those segments all day. Nor will I ever tire of hearing Aldrin et al describe what so very few humans have ever seen before.

But the new data streaming from Kaguya and the scientists interpreting it deserve a show of their own. These (to American audiences) new faces and hardware exploring the moon, the unprecidented detail of the 3D images taken from Kaguya’s 60-mile orbit, the new theories about the Earth-moon system’s origins and what they can tell us about how life started here on Earth, all should provide fresh inspiration for a new generation of explorers.

As Adrin says in the program, “That satellite has improved our understanding, our definition of just what the surface of the moon really looks like. And it ought to stir the imagingation in any human being.”