Monday, January 02, 2012

GRAIL explores the Moon

NASA spacecraft get in position

From NASA "The second of NASA's two Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft has successfully completed its planned main engine burn and is now in lunar orbit. Working together, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B will study the moon as never before...During GRAIL's science mission, the two spacecraft will transmit radio signals precisely defining the distance between them. As they fly over areas of greater and lesser gravity caused by visible features such as mountains and craters, and masses hidden beneath the lunar surface, the distance between the two spacecraft will change slightly...Scientists will translate this information into a high-resolution map of the moon's gravitational field. The data will allow scientists to understand what goes on below the lunar surface."

Almost as exciting: The probes each carry a camera, which will be trained on areas selected for study by middle-school students across America.  (Sally Ride conceived this project.) A student contest is also underway to pick new names for the spacecraft.


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