Satellites Crash into Moon

Twin NASA satellites are due for a cosmic collision of sorts after concluding a 15-month mission to map the gravity signature of Earth’s nearest neighbor.

Scientists last week set the Grail spacecraft, named Ebb and Flow, respectively, on course for a crash-landing into a lunar crater near the moon’s north pole.

But don’t expect to see any sky-borne  flashes, as Ebb and Flow are, as one researcher put it, ‘washer-and-dryer-size  spacecraft with empty fuel tanks.’

A controlled crash: Twin NASA satellites 'Ebb' and 'Flow' are expected to plunge into a lunar on the moon's north pole at 5:28 p.m. MondayTwin NASA satellites ‘Ebb’ and  ‘Flow’ are expected to plunge into a lunar on the moon’s north pole at 5:28 p.m.  Monday
Heavenly bodies: An artist's depiction of the twin spacecraft (Ebb and Flow) that comprise NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission.  An artist’s depiction of the twin  spacecraft (Ebb and Flow) that comprise NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior  Laboratory (GRAIL) mission.

‘We’re not expecting a flash that is visible from Earth,’ Grail Principal Investigator Maria Zuber told Space.com.

The two satellites are reportedly about to run out of fuel, and were guided to the location to avoid an estimated 1-in-8  million chance they could plunge into a historically important part of the moon,  like where the Apollo astronauts landed.

The $496 million Grail mission ¿ short for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory ¿ launched in September 2011, and Ebb and Flow reportedly arrived in lunar orbit about three months later.The $496 million Grail mission – short for  Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory – launched in September 2011, and Ebb  and Flow reportedly arrived in lunar orbit about three months later.

They are scheduled to hurtle into the crater  at 3,760 miles-per-hour 20 seconds apart at 5:28 p.m. mission team members told  Space.com.

‘They’re going to be completely blown apart,’  Grail mission manager David Lehman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in  Pasadena, Calif reportedly said.

Added Zuber: ‘This is all according to plan.’

The $496 million Grail mission — short for  Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory — launched in September 2011, and Ebb  and Flow reportedly arrived in lunar orbit about three months later.

Grail’s primary science mission ran from March to May, during which the spacecraft zipped around the moon at an average altitude of 34 miles. Ebb and Flow dropped down to about 14 miles above the moon  for an extended phase.

And the mission was – by all accounts – a  success.

‘Grail has produced the highest-resolution,  highest-quality gravity field for any planet in the solar system, including Earth,’ Zuber reportedly said.

The resulting map has revealed an incredibly  pulverized lunar crust, Zuber added, suggesting that the moon, Earth, Mars,  Mercury and Venus were pounded by long-ago impacts far more violently than  previously thought.

Mission managers on Friday turned off Ebb and Flow’s science instruments and ordered a maneuver putting them on course for the rim of the crater, which reportedly sits at a latitude of 75.62 degrees north and a longitude of 26.63 degrees east.

Crash landing site: The map shows the region where the twin spacecraft of NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission will impact on MondayThe map shows the region where the  twin spacecraft of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission will  impact on Monday
A successful mission: The map created by Ebb and Flow has revealed an incredibly pulverized lunar crust, suggesting the moon, Earth, Mars, Mercury and Venus were pounded by long-ago impacts far more violently than previously thought. The map created by Ebb and Flow  has revealed an incredibly pulverized lunar crust, suggesting the moon, Earth,  Mars, Mercury and Venus were pounded by long-ago impacts far more violently than  previously thought. ‘Grail has produced the  highest-resolution, highest-quality gravity field for any planet in the solar  system, including Earth.’

The violent demise of Ebb and Flow  should  provide mission scientists with information about the properties  of the crater  rim, perhaps shedding further light on lunar composition,  according to  Space.com.

It’s also possible the probes’ impact will expel water ice or other volatiles into the wispy lunar atmosphere, where they can be detected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance  Orbiter.

New moon: This locations on the moon that NASA considers 'lunar heritage sites' and the path GRAIL will take to avoid hitting any of themThis locations on the moon that NASA considers  ‘lunar heritage sites’ and the path GRAIL will take to avoid hitting any of  them
Impact: These 3D renderings show the lunar mountain targeted by the GRAIL mission for controlled impact of the Ebb and Flow spacecraftThese 3D renderings show the lunar mountain  targeted by the GRAIL mission for controlled impact of the Ebb and Flow  spacecraft

Researchers reportedly said the LRO has been studying the crash site and will attempt to do so again during and after the impact.

But the Grail team doesn’t necessarily expect to see ice. The crater rim is in sunlight much of the time, and the spacecraft  just aren’t big enough to kick up much stuff.

Using a precision formation-flying technique, the twin GRAIL spacecraft -- Ebb and Flow -- have mapped the Moon's gravity field, as depicted in this artist's rendering.  Using a precision formation-flying  technique, the twin GRAIL spacecraft — Ebb and Flow — have mapped the Moon’s  gravity field, as depicted in this artist’s rendering.

Attribution: Mike Jaccarino, Mail Online

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About thecommonconstitutionalist

Brent is not a scholar. He’s not an author or speaker (yet). He hasn’t published a book nor does he write articles for magazines (yet). He has no advanced literary degree or pedigree (never will). He is just an American who writes and shares what interests him. He cares about the salvation of this country and a return to its Constitutional roots. He believes in God, country and family.
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