PASADENA, Calif. — 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 5:15 p.m. PST (8:15 p.m. EST). …
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