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Saying Goodbye to Ebb and Flow
Today NASA answered the question I posed last week about Ebb and Flow: What is next for the twins and the GRAIL mission now that the prime mission is complete and the extended mission will end at the beginning of next week?
Maria Zuber, the GRAIL principal investigator, emphasized that the mission has achieved everything they could have possibly hoped for, they are happily surprised with the flawless performance, but it’s still curtains for Ebb and Flow.
"It is going to be difficult to say goodbye," said Zuber of MIT, "Our little robotic twins have been exemplary members of the GRAIL family, and planetary science has advanced in a major way because of their contributions."
NASA has planned at approximately 2:28 p.m. PST (5:28 p.m. EST) to dump the twins, who are running low on fuel as anticipated, on the lunar surface near the moon's north pole. Ebb, the probe that reached the moon’s orbit first, will be the first to go down and Flow will follow about 20 seconds later.
First they are going to shut down Ebb and Flow’s science instruments, then gather some engineering data from tests to help improve the way spacecraft will be built in the future, and then crash them into a lunar “mountain” like children destroying toys in a fit of reverse engineering. The mountain is near a crater named Goldschmidt.
The “mountain” near Goldscmidt was chosen to avoid impacting historic heritage sites or sites on the moon where lunar missions were landed by NASA or the Russian space program.
JPL’s David Lehman, the GRAIL project manager, said the odds of Ebb and Flow hitting a heritage site were eight in a million but they still decided to chart a controlled impact for the twins because it’s more fun that way.
There will be no live footage of the crash and neither will there be an explosion or flash. The impact will occur in the dark but NASA hopes to obtain before and after images of the completely blown apart probes so they can attempt to identify the wreckage. Ebb and Flow will make their mark on the moon and forge craters when they hit.
Lehman could not recall the entire cost of the GRAIL mission just that they came in under budget about 8 or 9 million dollars.
"Such a unique end-of-mission scenario requires extensive and detailed mission planning and navigation," said Lehman. "We've had our share of challenges during this mission and always come through in flying colors, but nobody I know around here has ever flown into a moon mountain before. It'll be a first for us, that's for sure."
1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.
1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.
2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.