The twin probes that gave us that detailed map of the Moon's gravity have precious few hours left to live. Tomorrow at approximately 5:28pm (EST) the two Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) lunar probes known as Ebb and Flow will crash into the side of a mountain near the Moon's north pole. NASA scientists will be livestreaming and carefully monitoring the event, presumably so they can make sure the impact near the lunar north pole doesn't hurt Moon Santa.
Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory
At 3 PM EST, the first of the two Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) probes completed its main engine burn and entered orbit 56 miles over the surface of our moon. The first probe, creatively named GRAIL-A, will not have long to wait for its twin GRAIL-B, which will enter orbit today around 3 PM EST. Once the two probes are in place over the moon, scientists will have a unique science platform which will provide them with a better understanding of the moon's composition.
Earlier this morning, NASA launched the spacecraft that will be under taking the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, which aims to shine some light on the moon's internal structure, history and evolution. The two spacecraft, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B, launched together this morning, strapped to a Delta II rocket and are slated to reach the moon on New Years Eve 2011 and New Years Day 2012 respectively. One there, they'll fly around the moon in formation, measuring changes in gravity and using the data to infer all kinds of things about the Moon's core and history. In addition to all that gravity stuff, the GRAIL spacecraft are also equipped with cameras devoted to the MoonKAM project (a pained acronym for Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) that will let middle school classrooms request picture of specific parts of the moon. In addition to acquiring moon knowledge, these lucky kids will get to experience the concentrated joy of interacting with and having an effect on an actual spacecraft that is in space. I'm pretty jealous. (via NASA, GRAIL MoonKAM)