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Monday, January 2, 2012

The twins GRAIL Join On Orbit the Moon

grail-b on orbit the moon
Artis of  GRAIL-B On Orbit The Moon (NASA)
Finally GRAIL-B has reached the moon's orbit. Now, the twins GRAIL ready to carry out their duties. GRAIL-B arrived in lunar orbit at 2:43 PT at the beginning of new year 2012. While GRAIL-A has successfully completed the burning at the end of 2011 at 14:00 PST.

As in the previous plan, the twins GRAIL placed into orbit near the poles, on an elliptical trajectory, with a period of 11.5 hours. For weeks, a series of burning carried out so that the period of GRAIL become 2 hours. At the start of the science phase in March 2012, the two GRAILs will be in a near-polar, near-circular orbit with an altitude of about 34 miles (55 kilometers).

"NASA greets the new year with a new mission of exploration," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "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."

During GRAIL's science mission, the two spacecraft will transmit radio signals precisely defining the distance between them. As they fly over areas of greater and lesser gravity caused by visible features such as mountains and craters, and masses hidden beneath the lunar surface, the distance between the two spacecraft will change slightly.

Scientists will translate this information into a high-resolution map of the moon's gravitational field. The data will allow scientists to understand what goes on below the lunar surface. This information will increase knowledge of how Earth and its rocky neighbors in the inner solar system developed into the diverse worlds we see today.

Led by Sally Ride, first American woman in space, and his team at Sally Up Sciences in collaboration with graduate student at the University of California at San Diego, will use the camera MoonKAM GRAIL (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) for the purpose of education and outreach the public.

GRAIL MoonKAM will engage middle schools across the country in the GRAIL mission and lunar exploration. Thousands of fifth- to eighth-grade students will select target areas on the lunar surface and send requests to the GRAIL MoonKAM Mission Operations Center in San Diego. Photos of the target areas will be sent back by the GRAIL satellites for students to study.

A student contest that began in October 2011 also will choose new names for the spacecraft. The new names are scheduled to be announced in January 2012. Ride and Maria Zuber, the mission's principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, chaired the final round of judging.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the GRAIL mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The GRAIL mission is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the Çalifornia Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Source: NASA

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