Feeds

NASA to smash its spacecraft INTO THE MOON

GRAIL probes scheduled for mission-ending crash 'em up

High performance access to file storage

Vid NASA's twin lunar-orbiting GRAIL spacecraft are preparing to smash into the surface of the Moon as a final send-off.

The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) ships, Ebb and Flow, will be intentionally crash-landed on the Moon now that their low orbit and fuel levels have ended their mission abilities.

The crash and burn, scheduled for 22.28 GMT on Monday, will hit a mountain located near the Goldschmidt crater, finishing a mission that start on 1 January this year.

"It is going to be difficult to say goodbye," said GRAIL principal investigator Maria Zuber of MIT. "Our little robotic twins have been exemplary members of the GRAIL family, and planetary science has advanced in a major way because of their contributions."

The two craft have generated the highest-resolution gravity field map of any celestial body, which will help boffins understand more about how Earth and other rocky planets in the Solar System formed and evolved.

Just before they impact on the Moon, Ebb and Flow will do one final experiment, firing their main engines until their propellant tanks are empty to show NASA scientists exactly how much fuel they have left. This will help engineers to improve predictions about how much fuel missions need.

"Our lunar twins may be in the twilight of their operational lives, but one thing is for sure, they are going down swinging," said GRAIL project manager David Lehman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. "Even during the last half of their last orbit, we are going to do an engineering experiment that could help future missions operate more efficiently."

Both spacecraft will hit the surface at 3,760mph, with Ebb going down first, followed 20 seconds later by Flow. NASA won't be able to get images of the crash because the mountain will be in shadow at the time of impact.

"Such a unique end-of-mission scenario requires extensive and detailed mission planning and navigation," said Lehman.

"We've had our share of challenges during this mission and always come through in flying colours, but nobody I know around here has ever flown into a moon mountain before. It'll be a first for us, that's for sure." ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.