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SPACE 30 Aug 2012 NASA’s GRAIL begins second phase of mission
NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, launched in Sep 2011 to study the Moon from crust to core, begins its ext

August 30, 2012 - NULL

SPACE 30 Aug 2012 NASA's GRAIL begins second phase of mission
NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, launched in Sep 2011 to study the Moon from crust to core, begins its extended science phase on Aug 30. The twin-probe mission is expected to yield precise topographic maps of the Moon, a boon for future human explorers, and a high-resolution map of the moon's gravitational field. The first phase ended in May, and GRAIL has been powered down ahead of the second, which is due to end on Dec 3.

The probes, launched as GRAIL 1 and

SPACE 30 Aug 2012 NASA's GRAIL begins second phase of mission
NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, launched in Sep 2011 to study the Moon from crust to core, begins its extended science phase on Aug 30. The twin-probe mission is expected to yield precise topographic maps of the Moon, a boon for future human explorers, and a high-resolution map of the moon's gravitational field. The first phase ended in May, and GRAIL has been powered down ahead of the second, which is due to end on Dec 3.

The probes, launched as GRAIL 1 and GRAIL 2, arrived at the Moon on Dec 31 and Jan 1 respectively. They were renamed Ebb and Flow, names that describe how they function together to increase the precision of the data. The spacecraft follow each other in circles over the lunar poles. Regions that are denser with matter will cause first one satellite and then the other to momentarily speed up. By constantly measuring the distance between the two probes, scientists can generate maps of the Moon's gravity and create models of its interior, a key piece of missing data despite more than 100 previous missions to the Moon, according to Discovery News.

There are two other NASA missions orbiting the Moon (ARTEMIS and LRO), with the next American lunar mission to be LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) scheduled for launch in May 2013. The NASA and foreign lunar missions planned before the 2020s are expected to pave the way for a manned Moon flight by 2025 or later. (WRITTEN JUNE 2012)

RELATED READING:

GRAIL mission (NASA)
http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/may/HQ_12-175_GRAIL.html

Meet 'Ebb' and 'Flow' -- NASA's New Moon Probes (Discovery News 12 Jan 2012)
http://news.discovery.com/space/meet-ebb-and-flow-nasas-new-moon-probes-120119.html

US, Russia, China and India rub shoulders on their way to the Moon (Voice of Russia 31 May 2012)
http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_05_31/76622232/

Date written/update: 2012-08-30