The $496 million mission TO MAP THE MOON

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The $496 million mission TO MAP THE MOON

Post by falkor » Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:47 pm

The $496 million mission - officially called the Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory or Grail for short - was launched last September from Florida. Instead of a direct three-day flight, the probes took a roundabout journey to save money and took 30 times longer to reach their destination than the Apollo astronauts.

Grail-A slipped into orbit around the moon on New Year's Eve followed by its twin Grail-B on New Year's Day. Data collection could not begin immediately because the spacecraft had to refine their positions until they were just 35 miles from the surface.

After the successful arrivals, the probes were rechristened Ebb and Flow. The names were selected by fourth-grade students from a Montana school who submitted the winning names in a NASA-sponsored contest.

Scientists monitoring the probes' vital signs said they're in excellent health. They have to wait to get a month's worth of data before they can start analyzing, but were pleased so far.

"It is clear from the raw data that there is a treasure trove of information in all those wiggles we're seeing," Zuber said.

Beginning next week, students will also get in on the action. Select middle school students will be able to use cameras on board the probes to photograph their favorite lunar target as part of an outreach project headed by Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.
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