NASA’s GRAIL Lunar Impact Site Named for Astronaut Sally Ride

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA has named the site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honor of the late astronaut, Sally K. Ride , who was America’s first woman in space and a member of the probes’ mission team.

Last Friday, Ebb and Flow, the two spacecraft comprising NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, were commanded to descend into a lower orbit that would result in an impact Monday on a mountain near the moon’s north pole. The formation-flying duo hit the lunar surface as planned at 2:28:51 p.m. PST (5:28:51 p.m. EST) and 2:29:21 p.m. PST (5:29:21 p.m. EST) at a speed of 3,760 mph (1.7 kilometers per second). The location of the Sally K. Ride Impact Site is on the southern face of an approximately 1.5 mile- (2.5 -kilometer) tall mountain near a crater named Goldschmidt.

“Sally was all about getting the job done, whether it be in exploring space, inspiring the next generation, or helping make the GRAIL mission the resounding success it is today,” said GRAIL principal investigator Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “As we complete our lunar mission, we are proud we can honor Sally Ride’s contributions by naming this corner of the moon after her.”

The impact marked a successful end to the GRAIL mission, which was NASA’s first planetary mission to carry cameras fully dedicated to education and public outreach. Ride, who died in July after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, led GRAIL’s MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students) Program through her company, Sally Ride Science, in San Diego.

Along with its primary science instrument, each spacecraft carried a MoonKAM camera that took more than 115,000 total images of the lunar surface. Imaging targets were proposed by middle school students from across the country and the resulting images returned for them to study. The names of the spacecraft were selected by Ride and the mission team from student submissions in a nationwide contest.

“Sally Ride worked tirelessly throughout her life to remind all of us, especially girls, to keep questioning and learning,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. “Today her passion for making students part of NASA’s science is honored by naming the impact site for her.”

Fifty minutes prior to impact, the spacecraft fired their engines until the propellant was depleted. The maneuver was designed to determine precisely the amount of fuel remaining in the tanks. This will help NASA engineers validate computer models to improve predictions of fuel needs for future missions.

“Ebb fired its engines for 4 minutes, 3 seconds and Flow fired its for 5 minutes, 7 seconds,” said GRAIL project manager David Lehman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “It was one final important set of data from a mission that was filled with great science and engineering data.”

The mission team deduced that much of the material aboard each spacecraft was broken up in the energy released during the impacts. Most of what remained probably is buried in shallow craters. The craters’ size may be determined when NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter returns images of the area in several weeks.

Launched in September 2011, Ebb and Flow had been orbiting the moon since Jan. 1, 2012. The probes intentionally were sent into the lunar surface because they did not have sufficient altitude or fuel to continue science operations. Their successful prime and extended science missions generated the highest resolution gravity field map of any celestial body. The map will provide a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and
evolved.

“We will miss our lunar twins, but the scientists tell me it will take years to analyze all the great data they got, and that is why we came to the moon in the first place,” Lehman said. “So long, Ebb and Flow, and we thank you.”

JPL manages the GRAIL mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. GRAIL is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.

For more information about GRAIL, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/grail

Grail Gravity Maps of the Moon

Gravity Maps
Grail Gravity Maps of the Lunar Highlands
Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MIT / GSFC

NASA released this graphic of the front (left) and back (right) of the Moon, based on gravity data from NASA’s GRAIL mission and topography data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The graphic shows regions of high and low densities of the lunar highlands. Red is high and blue is low. White shows mare basalt regions and solid circles are prominent impact basins.

On the back side of the Moon, the South Pole-Aitken basin, has a higher than average density that reflects its atypical iron-rich surface composition.

Below is a highly detail gravity map of the front (visible) side of the Moon. You can watch the movie.

Visible Side
Grail Gravity Map of the Visible Side of the Moon
Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MIT / GSFC

Lunar Topographic Map

Progress M-13M
100 meter resolution lunar topographic map
Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center / DLR / ASU

NASA has released a nearly complete topographic map of the Moon at a resolution of 100 meters (the Global Lunar DTM 100 m topographic model – GLD100)

With the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Wide Angle Camera and the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument, scientists can now accurately portray the shape of the entire moon at high resolution.

Additional information can be found at the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera center at Arizona State University.

1959 – Twelve Men On The Moon

Copernicus
Copernicus, Eratosthenes and Project Horizon
Image Credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team recently released this image featuring the famous crater Copernicus with its ejecta splashed across much of the face of the Moon. Copernicus and the crater Eratosthenes lie just south of Mare Imbrium. To the east of Copernicus and south of Eratosthenes lies the nearly featureless plain called Sinus Aestuum. Here, just southeast of Eratosthenes lies the location of a proposed Moon Base. In addition to the scientific value of this area, the rich ores of the Rima Bode regional dark mantling deposit lie nearby.

On 20 March 1959, Arthur G. Trudeau, Chief of Research and Development for the U.S. Army, submitted a request for the study to place a lunar outpost on the Moon. The result was Project Horizon, a plan (dated 9 June 1959) to place a military base with 10-20 men on the surface of the Moon by 1965. Full details are in Vol. I and Vol. II (pdf).

The introduction to the proposal stated that the establishment of a lunar base would:

  • Demonstrate the United States scientific leadership in outer space
  • Support scientific explorations and investigations
  • Extend and improve space reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities and control of space
  • Extend and improve communications and serve as a communications relay station
  • Provide a basic and supporting research laboratory for space research and development activity
  • Develop a stable, low-gravity outpost for use as a launch site for deep space exploration
  • Provide an opportunity for scientific exploration and development of a space mapping and survey system
  • Provide an emergency staging area, rescue capability or navigational aid for other space activity

It further stated the following, prescient about the Soviet manned capability, but extremely optimistic about the timetable for the Moon Base:

Advances in propulsion, electronics, space medicine and other astronautical sciences are taking place at an explosive rate. As recently as 1949, the first penetration of space war accomplished by the US when a two-stage V-2 rocket reached the then unbelievable altitude of 250 miles. In 1957, the Soviet Union placed the first man-made satellite in orbit. Since early l958, when the first US earth satellite was launched, both the US and USSR have launched additional satellites, moon probes, and successfully recovered animals sent into space in missiles. In 1960, and thereafter, there will be other deep space probes by the US and the USSR, with the US planning to place the first man into space with a REDSTONE missile, followed in 1961 with the first man in orbit. However, the Soviets could very well place a man in space before we do. In addition, instrumented lunar landings probably will be accomplished by 1964 by both the United States and the USSR. As will be indicated in the technical discussions of this report, the first US manned lunar landing could be accomplished by 1965. Thus, it appears that the establishment of an outpost on the moon is a capability which can be accomplished.

Underlying all of this was the traditional von Braun team approach:

paramount to successful major systems design is a conservative approach which requires that no item be more “advanced” than required to do the job. It recognizes that an unsophisticated success is of vastly greater importance than a series of advanced and highly sophisticated failures that “almost worked. “

The proposal discusses the ongoing development of the Saturn I by ARPA, expecting it would be fully operational by 1963. The Saturn I stood more than 200 feet tall, and would be superseded by the Saturn II in 1964, standing 304 feet tall. By the end of 1964, a total of 72 Saturn I rockets would have been launched on various programs of discovery, including 40 to support the manned lunar base. In order to support the full complement of 12 men, 61 Saturn I and 88 Saturn II launches would be required by the end of 1966, landing 490,000 pounds of cargo on the lunar surface. 64 launches were scheduled for 1967, landing an additional 266,000 pounds of supplies. The total cost of the eight and one-half year program was estimated to be $6 Billion.

The von Braun team thought very large indeed.

Lunar Base
Project Horizon – Lunar Base 1965
Image Credit: US Army

Rockets
Project Horizon – Rockets
Image Credit: US Army

Rockets
Orbital Trajectories
Image Credit: US Army

Let us know what you think. What do you want to know about? Post a comment.

LCROSS – IMPACT Imaged by Diviner on LRO

From the UCLA Diviner LRO blog:

The LRO Diviner instrument obtained infrared observations of the LCROSS impact this morning. LRO flew by the LCROSS Centaur impact site 90 seconds after impact at a distance of ~80 km. Diviner was commanded to observe the impact site on eight successive orbits, and obtained a series of thermal maps before and after the impact at approximately two hour intervals at an angle of approximately 48 degrees off nadir. In this viewing geometry, the spatial footprint of each Diviner detector was roughly 300 by 700 meters.

Diviner Impact Images of LCROSS

Credit: NASA / GSFC / UCLA

From the Planetary Society Blog:

preliminary, uncalibrated Diviner thermal maps of the impact site acquired two hours before the impact, and 90 seconds after the impact. The thermal signature of the impact was clearly detected in all four Diviner thermal mapping channels.

LCROSS – Impact

Images and Events of the final hour of the LCROSS mission.

3:42 – I MB data rate has been confirmed

3:43 – First Image from LCROSS Shepherding Spacecraft

3:48 – All Payload Instruments are Operating Nominally

3:59 – 3500 MPH at 3400 Miles from the Moon

4:23 – Poll of All Systems Ready for Observing Impact

4:31 – Impact of Centaur Stage

4:35 Impact of LCROSS Shepherding Spacecraft

A possible impact image in the infrared can be seen at the forum at NasaSpaceFlight.com.

Centaur After Separation

Centaur after Separation #1 with Low Data Rate Transmission

Centaur after Separation

Centaur after Separation #2 with Low Data Rate Transmission

First Image of Moon

First Image of Moon after High Data Rate Enabled

Image 2

Lunar Image

10 Minutes
10 Minutes Before Impact
Aim Point

Aim Point at Cursor Arrow

4 Minutes Infrared

4 Minutes Infrared Image

1 Minute Flash Mode

1 Minute – Transition to Flash Mode

30 Seconds30 Seconds 30 Seconds Infrared30 Seconds Infrared
15 Seconds Infrared15 Seconds Infrared 10 Seconds10 Seconds – Small Crater Visible at Top
LOSLoss of Signal It will be several days before the data has been calibrated and results begin to be released.

Credit: Screen Shots of NASA TV Images

LCROSS – Brace for Impact

LCROSS Impact

Credit: NASA Image

Tomorrow morning at 4:31:20 PDT (Phoenix time), the Centaur upper stage of the LRO mission will impact Cabeus crater on the Moon. At 4:35:39 the LCROSS instrument package will impact the Moon, having recorded the Centaur impact with a variety of imaging and spectroscopic instruments.

What are we looking for? WATER. Worth its weight in gold.

A complete list of events leading up to impact can be found at the LCROSS Flight Director’s Blog. Key events:

  • 01:00 PDT: Final orbit determination delivery for Separation(completed)
  • 17:00 PDT: Slow rotation to Separation attitude starts
  • 18:50 PDT: Separation
  • 19:30 PDT: Braking Burn starts (LCROSS)
  • 03:00 PDT: Start of Impact onboard command sequence
  • 3:36 PDT: Payload powers on
  • 4:10 PDT: Total Luminescence Photometer (TLP) Instrument powers on
  • 4:30:20 PDT: Flash Mode begins
  • 4:31:20 PDT: Centaur Impact
  • 4:31:23 PDT: Curtain Mode begins
  • 4:34:23 PDT: Crater Mode begins
  • 4:35:39 PDT: Shepherding Spacecraft impact

The latest LCROSS news can be found here.

Watch the LCROSS impact live starting at 3:30 PDT on NASA TV.

You can follow the live blog at NasaSpaceFlight. Current comments on the last page listed in the upper left.

The World At Night – Report from the Scene

The Educational Outreach programs of the National Space Society of Phoenix and the Planetary Society participated in today’s The World At Night exhibition at Christown Mall in Phoenix.

Between 1,000 and 1,500 children and parents stopped by between 10 AM and 3 PM to ask questions, collect trading cards, copies of the Ad Astra magazine, coloring sheets, stickers, decals, bookmarks, photographs and fact sheets from the members. Activities included making soda straw rockets and mission patches. Around a hundred soda straw rockets were built and launched.

The Challenger Space Center in Peoria brought out their Liquid Nitrogen demonstrations, the Dry Ice Comet, Freeze Dried Ice Cream and the Space Helmet Activity.

The Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration put on some captivating exhibits including the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera results from the spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon, and information on Mars, Robotics and Meteorites.

Hard At Work

Hard At Work

LRO Exhibit

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Exhibit

LROC – Videos


The LRO Laboratory posted this view of the Tsiolkovskiy crater on July 3 at 20:32:11.289 UTC. The images were obtained at an altitude of 83 km. Tsiolkovskiy is located at 21.2°S/128.9°E , and details such as individual boulders, boulder trails, hummocks, and possibly small outcrops can be readily identified in the ejecta blanket of Tsiolkovskiy crater on the lunar farside.

Named after Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the Russian father of astronautics, the crater, 185 km in diameter, is a major feature of the far side of the Moon. It is distinguished by its deep, dark crater and high island peak.


This video of Compton Crater was posted on Youtube by the LROC lab on 2009 July 5 21:39:49 UTC. Orbit 136 took LRO over Compton Crater at an altitude of 172 kilometers. The crater floor, central peak, and distinctive tectonic features are visible.

Compton is 182 km in diameter, and located on the far side of the Moon, in the Northern Hemisphere at 55.3°N/103.8°E .

Other interesting aspects of the Compton Crate include the existance of a small-scale Thorium anomaly near the craters Compton and Belkovich