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NASA GRAIL Twins Complete Their Moon Impact

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NASA GRAIL Twins Complete Their Moon Impact

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An artist's depiction of the twin spacecraft (Ebb and Flow) that comprise NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT › Full image and caption

Update: Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have received confirmation that the twin GRAIL spacecraft have, as planned, completed their impact into the moon.

Update: The twin spacecraft of NASA’s GRAIL mission have completed their final rocket burns. Their pre-planned lunar impact is expected at about 2:28 p.m. PST (5:28 EST).

Ebb and Flow -- the two twin spacecraft of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission -- have begun their final rocket burns. They are scheduled to impact the moon at around 2:28 p.m. PST (5:28 EST).

NASA is providing live commentary of the pre-planned lunar surface impacts by GRAIL beginning at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST) Monday, Dec. 17. The event will be broadcast on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website. For NASA TV streaming video, schedule and downlink information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv . The coverage will also be streamed live on Ustream at: http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2 .

The two probes will hit a mountain near the lunar north pole, bringing their successful prime and extended science missions to an end. The two probes are being sent purposely into the moon because they no longer have enough altitude or fuel to continue science operations. 



Commentary will originate from the GRAIL control room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Coverage will last about 35 minutes and include live interviews with GRAIL team members.

GRAIL's final resting place on the moon will be in shadow at the time of impact, so no video documentation of the impacts is expected. GRAIL data are allowing scientists to learn about the moon's internal structure and composition in unprecedented detail. Join the conversation on Twitter by following the hashtag #GRAIL.

For the mission's press kit and other information about GRAIL, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/grail . You can follow JPL News on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/nasajpl , and on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/nasajpl .

DC Agle 818-393-9011

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

agle@jpl.nasa.gov

2012-400

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NASA's GRAIL Lunar Impact Site Named for Astronaut Sally Ride

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA has named the site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honor of the late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the probes' mission team.

Last Friday, Ebb and Flow, the two spacecraft comprising NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, were commanded to descend into a lower orbit that would result in an impact Monday on a mountain near the moon's north pole. The formation-flying duo hit the lunar surface as planned at 2:28:51 p.m. PST (5:28:51 p.m. EST) and 2:29:21 p.m. PST (5:29:21 p.m. EST) at a speed of 3,760 mph (1.7 kilometers per second). The location of the Sally K. Ride Impact Site is on the southern face of an approximately 1.5-mile-tall (2.5-kilometer) mountain near a crater named Goldschmidt.

"Sally was all about getting the job done, whether it be in exploring space, inspiring the next generation, or helping make the GRAIL mission the resounding success it is today," said GRAIL principal investigator Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "As we complete our lunar mission, we are proud we can honor Sally Ride's contributions by naming this corner of the moon after her."

The impact marked a successful end to the GRAIL mission, which was NASA's first planetary mission to carry cameras fully dedicated to education and public outreach. Ride, who died in July after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, led GRAIL's MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students) Program through her company, Sally Ride Science, in San Diego.

Along with its primary science instrument, each spacecraft carried a MoonKAM camera that took more than 115,000 total images of the lunar surface. Imaging targets were proposed by middle school students from across the country and the resulting images returned for them to study. The names of the spacecraft were selected by Ride and the mission team from student submissions in a nationwide contest.

"Sally Ride worked tirelessly throughout her life to remind all of us, especially girls, to keep questioning and learning," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. "Today her passion for making students part of NASA's science is honored by naming the impact site for her."

Fifty minutes prior to impact, the spacecraft fired their engines until the propellant was depleted. The maneuver was designed to determine precisely the amount of fuel remaining in the tanks. This will help NASA engineers validate computer models to improve predictions of fuel needs for future missions.

"Ebb fired its engines for 4 minutes 3 seconds, and Flow fired its for 5 minutes 7 seconds," said GRAIL project manager David Lehman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It was one final important set of data from a mission that was filled with great science and engineering data."

The mission team deduced that much of the material aboard each spacecraft was broken up in the energy released during the impacts. Most of what remained probably is buried in shallow craters. The craters' size may be determined when NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter returns images of the area in several weeks.

Launched in September 2011, Ebb and Flow had been orbiting the moon since Jan. 1, 2012. The probes intentionally were sent into the lunar surface because they did not have sufficient altitude or fuel to continue science operations. Their successful prime and extended science missions generated the highest-resolution gravity field map of any celestial body. The map will provide a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved.

"We will miss our lunar twins, but the scientists tell me it will take years to analyze all the great data they got, and that is why we came to the moon in the first place," Lehman said. "So long, Ebb and Flow, and we thank you."

JPL manages the GRAIL mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. GRAIL is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.

Join the conversation on Twitter by following the hashtag #GRAIL. To learn more about all the ways to connect and collaborate with NASA, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/connect .

For the mission's press kit and other information about GRAIL, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/grail . You can follow JPL News on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/nasajpl and on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/nasajpl .

DC Agle 818-393-9011

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

agle@jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726

NASA Headquarters, Washington

Dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

Sarah McDonnell 617-253-8923

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

s_mcd@mit.edu

2012-401

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considering the probes were quite small nothing would have been seen at all, from earth, anyway heres the latest

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20761903

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