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.
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.