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."
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT/GSFC
This image shows the variations in the lunar gravity field as measured by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) during the primary mapping mission from March to May 2012. Very precise microwave measurements between two spacecraft, named Ebb and Flow, were used to map gravity with high precision and high spatial resolution.
The mission impact of NASA's "Ebb" and "Flow" spacecraft will be met with a literal impact when the twin space probes crash into the moon next week.
It must be so great to work at NASA.
Scientist 1: Hey, do you know about moon gravity?
Scientist 2: Not really.
Scientist 1: Wanna map it?
Scientist 2: Sure.
Scientist 1: Should we get a couple of washing machines and turn 'em into spaceships?
Scientist 2: Totally.
Scientist 1: And then crash them into the moon when we're done and see what happens?
Scientist 2: Yep.
Scientist 1: Cool.
In reality, scientists say the twins — in orbit around the moon and flying in formation since Jan. 1, 2012 — are too small to cause a crash that's visible from Earth. They are expected to make contact with a mountain near the north pole.
GRAIL Mission Comes Together: NASA's twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft are lowered onto the second stage of their Delta II launch vehicle at Space Launch Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida (8/18/2011). At the top of the image is the spacecraft adapter ring which holds the two lunar probes in their side-by-side launch configuration. The adapater ring and the probes are wrapped in plastic to prevent contamination outside the clean room in the Astrotech Space Operation's payload processing facility in Titusville, Fla. The spacecraft will fly in tandem orbits around the moon for several months to measure its gravity field. GRAIL's primary science objectives are to determine the structure of the lunar interior, from crust to core, and to advance understanding of the thermal evolution of the moon. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/KSC)
GRAIL Twins are Covered: At Space Launch Complex 17B on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, spacecraft technicians monitor the movement of a section of the clamshell-shaped Delta payload fairing as it encloses NASA's twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory spacecraft. The fairing will protect the spacecraft from the impact of aerodynamic pressure and heating during ascent and will be jettisoned once the spacecraft is outside the Earth's atmosphere. The image was taken on Aug. 23, 2011. (Courtesy NASA/KSC)
GRAIL Flying in Formation (Artist's Concept): Using a precision formation-flying technique, the twin GRAIL spacecraft will map the moon's gravity field. The mission also will answer longstanding questions about Earth's moon, including the size of a possible inner core, and it should provide scientists with a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed. GRAIL is a part of NASA's Discovery Program. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Testing the GRAIL Twins: In this photo, taken April 29, 2011, technicians install lifting brackets prior to hoisting the 200-kilogram (440-pound) GRAIL-A spacecraft out of vacuum chamber after testing. Along with its twin GRAIL-B, the GRAIL-A spacecraft underwent an 11-day-long test at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver that simulated many of the flight activities they will perform during the mission, all while being exposed to the vacuum and extreme hot and cold that simulate space. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)
GRAIL's Twin Spacecraft fly in Tandem Around the Moon (Artist's Concept): The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission utilizes the technique of twin spacecraft flying in formation with a known altitude above the lunar surface and known separation distance to investigate the gravity field of the moon in unprecedented detail. The technique utilizes radio links between the two spacecraft as well as radio links to stations on Earth. The mission also will answer longstanding questions about Earth's moon, including a possible inner core, and provide scientists with a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed. GRAIL is a part of NASA's Discovery Program. (Courtesy NASA/JPL)
GRAIL's Twin Spacecraft -- Crust to Core (Artist's Concept): The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission utilizes the technique of twin spacecraft flying in formation with a known altitude above the lunar surface and known separation distance to investigate the gravity field of the moon in unprecedented detail. The technique utilizes radio links between the two spacecraft as well as radio links to stations on Earth. The mission also will answer longstanding questions about Earth's moon, including a possible inner core, and provide scientists with a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed. GRAIL is a part of NASA's Discovery Program. (Courtesy NASA/JPL)
Twin NASA probes began studying the moon's gravity late Tuesday night in effort to determine why the moon, Earth's only natural satellite, is shaped the way it is.
Managed locally at NASA's Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the three-month GRAIL mission (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory), will begin analyzing data in one month.
Scientists want to know why the Pink Floyd side of the moon appears to be more mountainous than the side that always faces Earth. Despite numerous missions, they still don't have that answer.
Additionally, by mapping the lunar gravity field, investigators hope to support or discredit a theory that Earth at one time had two moons.
Researchers hope the $496 million mission -- which includes spacecraft development, science instruments, launch services, mission operations, science processing and relay support -- will net significant intel about what lies below the surface.