NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft now together in lunar orbit


NASA’s twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) spacecraft has been successfully placed in lunar orbit at 2 P.m PST on January 1st 2012. This GRAIL-A was accompanied by GRAIL-B after 43 minutes (2.43 pm) of the launch of GRAIL-A on the same new year day. These two spacecraft are located near-polar,elliptical orbit and their rotation period is calculated approximately 11.5 hours. As part of equiping these spacecraft for the science phase of the mission that is likely to begin in March 2012, they wil go through a sequence of burns in order to be placed near-polar and near-circular orbit so that the altitude of 34 miles(55 Km) and less than two hours of orbital duration can be attained.

NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft now together in lunar orbit is very useful to scientists. This Science mission of GRAIL will be monitoring these spacecraft orbitting the lunar in a particular arrangement and the radio signals transmitting between them can be very helpful to accurately measure their distance from time to time. The changes in the distance of two spacecraft due to difference in gravity as they pass over mountains and craters on the lunar surface can be analysed by scientists in order to understand the internal structure and thereby the evolution of Earth and the rocky neigbors in the solar system. Moreover, this will enable scientists to create high-resolution pictures of the lunar’s surface.

The MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle School students) project necessitates all of the GRAIL spacecraft to transport a small camera along with them. This can help a lot of students from fifth to eighth grade to point out areas in the lunar surface and get their snapshots back. These snapshots will be sent back by the GRAIL Satellite and will be very useful for academic purpose. As this is the case, the GRAIL spacecraft can have new names due to the students contest and its results might be announced this month.

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