Selfies from space: NASA has lift-off on Instagram to mark moon probe launch

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Space agency says it will share with its followers the 'most engaging images on and off the planet'

It promises to let you “capture and share the world’s moments”, but never before has a new Instagram user been so well positioned to do just that.

NASA has launched its first official profile on the photo sharing website, and vows to take its fans on “an out-of-this-world journey through images of Earth and beyond”.

Already a seasoned user of Twitter, with around 4.8 million followers, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration agency timed its first foray into the world of selfies and retro light filters to coincide with a launch of a more traditional nature – a mission to the moon.

Also lifting off on Friday night, the LADEE robotic probe (pronounced LA-dee) will seek to answer a question which has bugged lunar scientists ever since the Apollo landings: does moon dust levitate?

Before it can perform tests on the makeup of our natural satellite’s surface and atmosphere, LADEE will be taking a leisurely three-times-round-the-world trip for about a month until it gets close enough to drop into lunar orbit.

In the meantime, those following NASA online will hope for plenty more spectacular images like these.

The $280 million unmanned mission was only the US’s second “moonshot” not to be launched from Cape Canaveral, instead making for a high-profile first at the Wallops Flight Centre in Virginia.

With US government budgets still suffering following the very Earth-bound economic crisis, the space agency is having to work harder than ever to appeal to a wider public and persuade people of its ongoing relevance.

NASA spokeswoman Lauren Worley said: “We're constantly looking to expand our social media portfolio to include tools that will best tell NASA's story of exploration and discovery.

“Instagram has a passionate following of users who are hungry for new and exciting photos. We believe we have some of the most engaging images on and off the planet.”

Since LADEE’s launch at 11.27pm on Friday night, NASA has shared eight photos – and received around 65,000 followers. Combined with its strong presences on Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare and Reddit, the agency says it is doing better than ever at “engaging and inspiring the public”.

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