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Nasa’s GRAIL launch supports education

By: Tinsley Tullos

With the launch of GRAIL, the space agency acronym for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, NASA has created new forms of learning. Originally scheduled to launch on Thursday, the space mission GRAIL launched last Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, with hopes of finding and exploring the substance of the moon as well as supporting education and public outreach.

Originally scheduled to launch on Thursday, the space mission GRAIL launched last Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, with hopes of finding and exploring the substance of the moon as well as supporting education and public outreach. Photo courtesy of Google images

Middle school students and teachers from all around the world will have complete access to what is known as Moonkam, an opportunity for students to request photography of lunar targets for classroom study. This will be conducted through the use of two moderate sized probes that are known as GRAIL A and GRAIL B. Out of the many missions to the moon and the hundreds of pounds of rock and soil samples brought back from the Apollo astronauts, none have answered the question as to what is below the surface. These probes will be among the first of NASA’s planetary missions to freely educate students and teachers. Teacher Leesa Hubbard, from Sally Ride middle school, states, “I think once they begin to look at detailed images, when they go out in their backyard and look at the moon, they’re gonna look at it in a whole new way and I think that’s priceless.”

One and a half hours into the mission, GRAIL A departed from the shuttle while GRAIL B followed eight minutes later. Probe A is set to arrive on New Year’s Eve while Probe B is to follow on New Year’s Day. Although they won’t land on the moon, they will proceed to collect information from a polar lunar orbit close by. It will take precisely four months to arrive to this destination due to the use of the small Delta II rocket used to boost the GRAIL twins. It took close to three days for the trip made in the 60’s with a direct flight in comparison. Although the Delta II is not time efficient, it is cost efficient next to the expected $426 million in mission’s costs. The trip will cover more than two million miles and will travel via the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 1, a spot between our planet and the sun that is gravitationally stable

The primary science objectives are to further understand the knowledge of the thermal evolution of the moon and determine the structure of the lunar from crust to core. The formation of the moon was once said to have formed from the amount of space debris following a collision between the Earth and another massive body.  If this theory proves to be true, not only will the formation of moon be revealed, but scientists will have a better understanding about the formation of the inner planets.

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