Feeds

NASA to smash its spacecraft INTO THE MOON

GRAIL probes scheduled for mission-ending crash 'em up

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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." ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.