Moon History: NASA Video Shows Volcanoes, Meteorite Impacts That Made Craters (VIDEO)

How did the 'man in the moon' take shape? A new NASA video on lunar evolution explains the process, from the moon's beginnings as a ball of magma to the intricate craters we see today. It's 4.5 billion years compressed into three minutes.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. released the computer-animated video March 14 in celebration of the craft's thousandth day in orbit. The LRO's mission—gathering lots of data to "help astronauts prepare for long-duration lunar expeditions"—makes for a detailed view of our closest neighbor in the solar system.

The video includes extreme impact events like the one that created the moon's South Pole-Aitkin Basin, and views of the volcanic activity subsequently unleashed by smaller meteorites. What's the take-away? Says the LRO team in the video's description: "While the moon today may seem to be an unchanging world, its appearance is the result of billions of years of violent activity."