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Launch of the GRAIL Mission

13 Sep 2011, 00:51 UTC
Launch of the GRAIL Mission
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The Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission will create the most accurategravitational map of the moon to date. This mission will improve our knowledge of the moon'snear-side gravity by 100 times and of far-side gravity by 1000 times. The high resolutiongravitational field, especially when combined with a comparable-resolution topographicalfield, will enable scientists to deduce the moon's interior structure and composition and togain insights into its thermal evolution which will improve understanding into the moon'sorigin and development. This more accurate knowledge will better assist with navigationalaid to future lunar spacecraft. This will be the first time any space agency has attempted the complex set of maneuvers required to place two robotic spacecraft into the same orbit arounda planetary body other than earth so they can fly in formation. The mission also carries MoonKam-an imager whose photographic targets will be chosen by middle school studentsunder the auspices of Sally Ride Science. GRAIL will begin its work on the moon in 2012.Credit: NASA.gov/GRAIL

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