The Grail Mission: NASA Heads Back to the Moon, to Learn Its Origins as well as Inspire A new Generation. NASA certainly going back towards the moon once more, sending a set of spacecraft on the quest to understand the origins in our closest friend by learning its interior and it is gravitational area. But past new lunar technology. the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, GRAIL, will also help cement NASA’s legacy of lunar exploration in the public imagination.
NASA's Grail Mission Twin spacecraft will orbit in tandem
GRAIL A and its twin GRAIL B are set to launch Thursday morning aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch window opens at 8:37 a.m. EDT, although weather looks pretty iffy for the next couple days, according to NASA. Once they arrive at the moon, the two washing machine-sized probes will fly in formation, with instruments sensitive enough to detect a hair’s breadth separation. Along with those gravity-mapping instruments, GRAIL will carry something called MoonKAM — “Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students.”
Grail Launch Preparations: Lockheed Martin technicians verify that NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory-A (GRAIL-A)
Logging in from schools around the country, students will be able to virtually coast a few miles above the surface of the moon, scanning the pallid dirt for craters or perhaps an open plain that might someday make a nice lunar homestead. Students can select target areas by studying topographic maps on the MoonKAM website, and send them to NASA’s MoonKAM operations center. The images will be fairly high-resolution, but they won’t approach the abilities of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which took the snapshots we saw this week of Apollo landing sites. But that’s not the point, said Maria Zuber, a professor of geophysics at MIT and the mission’s lead investigator.