Twin Gravity Spacecraft Set to Enter Lunar OrbitDec. 30, 2011: NASA's twin GRAIL spacecraft, on a mission to study the moon's gravitational field, are nearing their New Year's Eve and New Year's Day main-engine burns to place the duo in lunar orbit.
Named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), the spacecraft are scheduled to be placed into orbit beginning at 1:21 p.m. PST (4:21 p.m. EST) for GRAIL-A on Dec. 31, and 2:05 p.m. PST (5:05 p.m. EST) on Jan. 1 for GRAIL-B.
"Our team may not get to partake in a traditional New Year's celebration, but I expect seeing our two spacecraft safely in lunar orbit should give us all the excitement we need," said David Lehman, project manager for GRAIL at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.
An artist's concept of the GRAIL spacecraft in action. [more]
StarDateDecember 30, 2011
- The Moon will get two new visitors from Earth, one on December 31, the other on January 1. The twin spacecraft, which form the GRAIL mission, will make the most precise measurements to date of the Moon's gravitational field, which is quite "lumpy." Mapping the lumps will provide new information about the history and evolution of the lunar surface. The measurements also provide a look deep into the Moon's interior. This artist's concept shows the two spacecraft flying in formation, with differences in the Moon's gravity represented by different colors on the surface. [NASA/JPL]
LAUNCH CONTROL: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, zero, and liftoff of the Delta II with GRAIL, a journey to the center of the Moon.A pair of twins is preparing to greet the new year in a special way — by entering orbit around the Moon. The first will arrive tomorrow, with the other following on New Year’s Day.
Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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