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Posts Tagged ‘GRAIL’

NASA’s GRAIL Creates Most Accurate Moon Gravity Map

December 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Lunar gravity field. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT/GSFC

Lunar gravity field. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT/GSFC

The new map, created by the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, is allowing scientists to learn about the moon’s internal structure and composition in unprecedented detail. Data from the two washing machine-sized spacecraft also will provide a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved.

The gravity field map reveals an abundance of features never before seen in detail, such as tectonic structures, volcanic landforms, basin rings, crater central peaks and numerous simple, bowl-shaped craters. Data also show the moon’s gravity field is unlike that of any terrestrial planet in our solar system.

“What this map tells us is that more than any other celestial body we know of, the moon wears its gravity field on its sleeve,” said GRAIL Principal Investigator Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “When we see a notable change in the gravity field, we can sync up this change with surface topography features such as craters, rilles or mountains.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-385#1

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NASA 3-D App Gives Public Ability To Experience Robotic Space Travel


A NASA-created application that brings some of the agency’s robotic spacecraft to life in 3-D now is available for free on the iPhone and iPad.

Called Spacecraft 3D, the app uses animation to show how spacecraft can maneuver and manipulate their outside components. Presently, the new app features two NASA missions, the Curiosity rover that will touch down on Mars Aug. 6 at 1:31 a.m. EDT, and the twin GRAIL spacecraft Ebb and Flow currently orbiting the moon.

“With Spacecraft 3D and a mobile device, you can put high definition, three-dimensional models literally into the hands of kids of all ages,” said Stephen Kulczycki, deputy director for communications and education at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jul/HQ_12-226_NASA_3D_Spacecraft_App.html

NASA Lunar Spacecraft Complete Prime Mission Ahead Of Schedule


PASADENA, Calif. — A NASA mission to study the moon from crust to core has completed its prime mission earlier than expected. The team of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, with twin probes named Ebb and Flow, is now preparing for extended science operations starting Aug. 30 and continuing through Dec. 3, 2012.

The GRAIL mission has gathered unprecedented detail about the internal structure and evolution of the moon. This information will increase our knowledge of how Earth and its rocky neighbors in the inner solar system developed into the diverse worlds we see today.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-146

Flying Formation – Around the Moon at 3,600 MPH

March 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/Caltech-JPL/MIT

Image credit: NASA/Caltech-JPL/MIT

The act of two or more aircraft flying together in a disciplined, synchronized manner is one of the cornerstones of military aviation, as well as just about any organized air show. But as amazing as the U.S. Navy’s elite Blue Angels or the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds are to behold, they remain essentially landlocked, anchored if you will, to our planet and its tenuous atmosphere. What if you could take the level of precision of these great aviators to, say, the moon?

“Our job is to ensure our two GRAIL spacecraft are flying a very, very accurate trail formation in lunar orbit,” said David Lehman, GRAIL project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “We need to do this so our scientists can get the data they need.”

Essentially, trail formation means one aircraft (or spacecraft in this case), follows directly behind the other. Ebb and Flow, the twins of NASA’s GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) mission, are by no means the first to synch up altitude and “air” speed  while zipping over the craters, mountains, hills and rills of Earth’s natural satellite. That honor goes to the crew of Apollo 10, who in May 1969 performed a dress rehearsal for the first lunar landing. But as accurate as the astronauts aboard lunar module “Snoopy” and command module “Charlie Brown” were in their piloting, it is hard to imagine they could keep as exacting a position as Ebb and Flow.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-089

NASA’s Twin Grail Spacecraft Begin Collecting Lunar Science Data


NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft orbiting the moon officially have begun their science collection phase. During the next 84 days, scientists will obtain a high-resolution map of the lunar gravitational field to learn about the moon’s internal structure and composition in unprecedented detail. The data also will provide a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved.

“The initiation of science data collection is a time when the team lets out a collective sigh of relief because we are finally doing what we came to do,” said Maria Zuber, principal investigator for the GRAIL mission at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “But it is also a time where we have to put the coffee pot on, roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

The GRAIL mission’s twin, washing-machine-sized spacecraft, named Ebb and Flow, entered lunar orbit on New Year’s Eve and New Years Day. GRAIL’s science phase began yesterday at 8:15 p.m. EST (5:15 p.m. PST). During this mission phase, the 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, craters and masses hidden beneath the lunar surface, the distance between the two spacecraft will change slightly. Science activities are expected to conclude on May 29, after GRAIL maps the gravity field of the moon three times.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/mar/HQ_12-070_GRAIL_Science_Begins.html

GRAIL Returns Its 1st Video from Lunar Far Side

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/Caltech-JPL

Image credit: NASA/Caltech-JPL

A camera aboard one of NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) lunar spacecraft has returned its first unique view of the far side of the moon. MoonKAM, or Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students, will be used by students nationwide to select lunar images for study.

GRAIL consists of two identical spacecraft, recently named Ebb and Flow, each of which is equipped with a MoonKAM. The images were taken as part of a test of Ebb’s MoonKAM on Jan. 19. The GRAIL project plans to test the MoonKAM aboard Flow at a later date.

To view the 30-second video clip, visit: http://go.nasa.gov/zZXAPs .

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-031

Montana Students Submit Winning Names for NASA Lunar Spacecraft

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Twin NASA spacecraft that achieved orbit around the moon New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day have new names thanks to elementary students in Bozeman, Montana. Their winning entry, “Ebb and Flow,” was selected as part of a nation-wide school contest that began in October 2011.

The names were submitted by fourth graders from the Emily Dickinson Elementary School. Nearly 900 classrooms with more than 11,000 students from 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, participated in the contest. Previously named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL A and B, the washing machine-sized spacecraft begin science operations in March.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jan/HQ_12-019_GRAIL_Name.html