Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT/GSFC
Ebb and Flow's Final Moments: These side-by-side, 3-D comparisons depict the unnamed lunar mountain targeted by the NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission for controlled impact of the Ebb and Flow spacecraft. They also include the ground tracks the spacecraft are expected to follow into the lunar terrain. These graphics were generated using data from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter instrument aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. On the left is the mountain with the ground track and mission termination point for the Ebb spacecraft. On the right is the mountain, ground track and mission termination point for the Flow spacecraft.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT
GRAIL Spacecraft Over the Moon: An artist’s depiction of the twin spacecraft (Ebb and Flow) that comprise NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the GRAIL mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, is home to the mission's principal investigator, Maria Zuber. 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. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.
Ebb and Flow's final resting place on the moon has been named for America's first woman in space, Sally Ride, NASA/JPL announced Monday.
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."
NASA announced the plan last week to crash the probes near the north pole of the moon. The duo have been in orbit since Jan. 1, 2012 and helped to successfully create a lunar gravity map. They were purposely doomed to crash into the lunar surface because "their low orbit and low fuel levels preclude further scientific operations," said NASA.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will return images of the crash site in several weeks. The mission team believes that surviving bits of spacecraft are likely buried in shallow craters.
GRAIL project manager David Lehman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena remarked about the final order of business conducted by the probes, and thanked them in the official mission update.
"Ebb fired its engines for 4 minutes 3 seconds, and Flow fired its for 5 minutes 7 seconds...It was one final important set of data from a mission that was filled with great science and engineering data."
"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."
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