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Viewing entries tagged moon
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."
Ebb and Flow, NASA’s twin washing-machine sized spacecraft, are making important contributions in an area study similar to the Curiosity rover: providing information taken from places in our solar system to help us understand how Earth and other rocky planets were formed. Except Curiosity has a laser that it uses to shoot rocks so it gets way more press than Ebb and Flow.
At the beginning of fall NASA announced they were waking the twins up after their summer nap. At the time Ebb and Flow were about to start the science phase of the mission after completing the primary phase earlier than anticipated. On December 17th, just a few weeks shy of the one year anniversary marking their successful placement in orbit around the moon, the extended science phase will come to an end as well.
NASA’s twin spacecraft Ebb and Flow, part of the GRAIL mission, could be feeling a bit overlooked amidst the constant updates about the little laboratory that could: Curiosity.
While Curiosity is currently rolling towards a place on Mars called Glenelg where three types of terrain intersect so it can bust out its drill to begin analysis of the rocks and soil it’s back to school and back to work for Ebb and Flow.
On Thursday, just as NASA planned, the twins -or their instruments rather- the Lunar Gravity Ranging System was powered on at 9:28 a.m. PDT (12:28 p.m. EDT) to begin the science phase of their mission. The twins were shut down at the beginning of the summer after completing the primary mission earlier than scheduled.
Do you remember NASA’s twin lunar spacecraft Ebb and Flow? They were sent to orbit the moon at the beginning of the year to scan it from “crust to core.”
They have finished their primary mission earlier than expected because the NASA team has analyzed the data the twins have sent back with rapid precision. The GRAIL mission sent back over 99.99 percent of the information that could have possibly been collected. The agency is chuffed about the results.
Tomorrow, unless a fog rolls in off the Pacific Ocean, an eclipse will be completely visible and partially visible in parts of California and portions of the Southwest. The annular eclipse is expected to be seen by residents in parts of Eastern Asia and partially visible in the North Pacific, North America and Greenland as well according to NASA. Sadly, vast swaths of the country won’t even sneak a peek- the poor East Coast is left out of this eclipse.
Saturday’s Moon will be a “supermoon” and all that means is that the full Moon will look big and bright because it’s nearer to us than it is normally.
News outlets are stressing that there is nothing to be afraid of because the Moon isn’t suddenly going to take a nosedive into our planet or cause chaos. How can we be certain we have nothing to fear? Supermoons are a phenomenon that occur once a year on average according to this National Geographic article and we are all still here reading this having lived through many supermoons.
Ebb and Flow, NASA’s twin spacecraft, achieved lunar orbit with no reported problems at the beginning of this year after a four month trip.
NASA has several goals they hope to achieve with the spacecraft and GRAIL including a greater understanding of the Moon’s surface and interior by mapping its gravitational field. This eighty day mission will also provide more insight as to how the Moon and rocky planets were formed. That is just what NASA would like to achieve from this mission: middle school students will use a different set of information to learn about the Moon’s surface characteristics such as craters.
GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B are successfully in orbit around the moon!
GRAIL-A completed its main engine burn at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST) on December 31st. As of 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST) yesterday, GRAIL-A is in a 56-mile by 5,197-mile “near-polar, elliptical orbit” around the moon that takes approximately 11.5 hours to complete. GRAIL-B achieved lunar orbit at 2:43 p.m. PST (5:43 p.m. EST) on January 1st. The placement into orbit was automated and NASA reported no problems.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “NASA greets the new year with a new mission of exploration. The twin GRAIL spacecraft will vastly expand our knowledge of our moon and the evolution of our own planet. We begin this year reminding people around the world that NASA does big, bold things in order to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown."
In September of this year NASA launched two probes together on a rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station called GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B. GRAIL stands for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory.
Thing 1 and Thing 2... ahem GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B were launched to map the Moon’s gravitational field by using the same measuring technique the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) has been using to map Earth's gravity since 2002. The data transmitted will be used to create a “high-resolution map of the Moon's gravitational field” and “answer longstanding questions about the moon and give scientists a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.” The mission will not tell us if the Moon is made of cheese.