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Posts Tagged ‘GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory)’

NASA Mission Points To Origin of “Ocean Of Storms” On Earth’s Moon

October 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), mission scientists have solved a lunar mystery almost as old as the moon itself.

Early theories suggested the craggy outline of a region of the moon’s surface known as Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms, was caused by an asteroid impact. If this theory had been correct, the basin it formed would be the largest asteroid impact basin on the moon. However, mission scientists studying GRAIL data believe they have found evidence the craggy outline of this rectangular region — roughly 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers) across — is actually the result of the formation of ancient rift valleys.

“The nearside of the moon has been studied for centuries, and yet continues to offer up surprises for scientists with the right tools,” said Maria Zuber, principal investigator of NASA’s GRAIL mission, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. “We interpret the gravity anomalies discovered by GRAIL as part of the lunar magma plumbing system — the conduits that fed lava to the surface during ancient volcanic eruptions.”

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NASA’s GRAIL Mission Puts A New Face On The Moon

November 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Scientists using data from the lunar-orbiting twins of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission are gaining new insight into how the face of the moon received its rugged good looks. A report on the asymmetric distribution of lunar impact basins is published in this week’s edition of the journal Science.

“Since time immemorial, humanity has looked up and wondered what made the man in the moon,” said Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “We know the dark splotches are large, lava-filled, impact basins that were created by asteroid impacts about four billion years ago. GRAIL data indicate that both the near side and the far side of the moon were bombarded by similarly large impactors, but they reacted to them much differently.”

Understanding lunar impact basins has been hampered by the simple fact that there is a lack of consensus on their size. Most of the largest impact basins on the near side of the moon (the moon’s face) have been filled with lava flows, which hide important clues about the shape of the land that could be used for determining their dimensions. The GRAIL mission measured the internal structure of the moon in unprecedented detail for nine months in 2012. With the data, GRAIL scientists have redefined the sizes of massive impact basins on the moon.

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NASA’s GRAIL Mission Solves Mystery Of Moon’s Surface Gravity


NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission has uncovered the origin of massive invisible regions that make the moon’s gravity uneven, a phenomenon that affects the operations of lunar-orbiting spacecraft.

Because of GRAIL’s findings, spacecraft on missions to other celestial bodies can navigate with greater precision in the future.

GRAIL’s twin spacecraft studied the internal structure and composition of the moon in unprecedented detail for nine months. They pinpointed the locations of large, dense regions called mass concentrations, or mascons, which are characterized by strong gravitational pull. Mascons lurk beneath the lunar surface and cannot be seen by normal optical cameras.

“GRAIL data confirm that lunar mascons were generated when large asteroids or comets impacted the ancient moon, when its interior was much hotter than it is now,” said Jay Melosh, a GRAIL co-investigator at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/grail/news/grail20130530.html

LRO’s LAMP Ultraviolet Spectrograph Observes Mercury And Hydrogen In GRAIL Impact Plumes


When NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft made their final descent for impact onto the Moon’s surface last December, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s sophisticated payload was in position to observe the effects. As plumes of gas rose from the impacts, the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP) aboard LRO detected the presence of mercury and hydrogen and measured their time evolution as the gas rapidly expanded into the vacuum of space at near-escape velocities.

NASA intentionally crashed the GRAIL twins onto the Moon on Dec. 17, 2012, following successful prime and extended science missions. Both spacecraft hit a mountain near the lunar north pole, which was shrouded in shadow at the time. Developed by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), LAMP uses a novel method to peer into the darkness of the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions, making it ideal for observations of the Moon’s night-side and its tenuous atmospheric constituents.

“While our results are still very new, our thinking is that the hydrogen detected from the GRAIL site might be related to an enhancement at the poles caused by hydrogen species migrating toward the colder polar regions,” says Dr. Kurt Retherford, LAMP principal investigator and a principal scientist at SwRI.

Full Story: http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/2013/lamp.htm#.UVJXW94o5hE

NASA Launches Mission to Study Moon From Crust to Core

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

 Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Thom Baur, United Launch Alliance

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Thom Baur, United Launch Alliance

NASA’s twin lunar Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 9:08 a.m. EDT (6:08 a.m. PDT) Saturday, Sept. 10, to study the moon in unprecedented detail.

GRAIL-A is scheduled to reach the moon on New Year’s Eve 2011, while GRAIL-B will arrive New Year’s Day 2012. The two solar-powered spacecraft will fly in tandem orbits around the moon to measure its gravity field. GRAIL will answer longstanding questions about the moon and give scientists a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-285

NASA GRAIL Moon Mission Launch Rescheduled

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

The launch of a Delta II vehicle carrying NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) was scrubbed today, Thursday, Sept. 8, due to weather. Conditions associated with upper level winds were in violation of the launch criteria.

The Delta II and GRAIL are safe and secure at this time. The launch is rescheduled for Friday, Sept. 9, from Space Launch Complex-17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. There are two instantaneous launch opportunities at 5:33:25 a.m. PDT (8:33:25 a.m. EDT) and 6:12:31 a.m. PDT (9:12:31 a.m. EDT). The forecast for tomorrow (Sept. 9) shows a 40 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-280

NASA Invites 150 Lucky Twitter Followers to Launch of Lunar Spacecraft

September 2, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA has invited 150 followers of the agency’s Twitter account to a two-day launch Tweetup Sept. 7-8. The Tweetup is expected to culminate in the launch of the twin lunar-bound GRAIL spacecraft aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The launch is targeted for 8:37 a.m. EDT on Sept. 8. The two GRAIL spacecraft will fly in tandem orbits around the moon for several months to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail from crust to core. The mission also will answer longstanding questions about the moon and provide scientists with a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_11-285_GRAIL_Tweetup.html