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NASA’s GRAIL Mission Comes To Moon-Crashing Halt

December 17, 2012
Image Caption: An artist's depiction of the twin spacecraft (Ebb and Flow) that comprise NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

The GRAIL lunar mission came to a crashing halt today after the twin probes (Ebb and Flow) smashed into the Moon in a blaze of glory.

The twin probes have had a successful run, and the mission ending burn-out into the lunar surface was planned out by NASA from the beginning.

NASA said its GRAIL probes found their way towards the lunar surface at about 2:28 p.m. pacific time on Monday.

The mission ended successfully, closing in at nearly a year of the prime and extended science missions.

NASA provided live commentary at the time of the event, which was broadcast on NASA Television and streamed on the space agency’s website.

The GRAIL probes both found their final resting places in a shadowy mountainside at the time of impact, so no video documentation of their fatality was performed.

The twin spacecraft allowed scientists to understand a little more about the moon’s internal structure and composition. NASA planned on sending the probes into the surface of the moon for one final mission task.

The space agency burned out the rest of the probes fuel, helping engineers to determine exactly how much fuel remained. This data will be used to help NASA validate fuel consumption computer models to improve predictions of fuel needs for future missions. Ebb and Flow, the two spacecraft, crashed into the moon at about 3,760 miles per hour.

The twin spacecrafts helped to provide scientists with the highest-resolution gravity field map of any celestial body. This map will help scientists understand more about how Earth and other rocky planets developed.

This was the first time NASA, or any other space agency, has flown a spacecraft into a moon mountain before.


Source: Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online



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