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Forum:Satellites - Robotic Probes
Topic:GRAIL to the Moon: Viewing, questions, comments
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Robert PearlmanKennedy Space Center Visitor Complex release
Guests Invited to Experience the Thrill of a Delta II Heavy Rocket Launch

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex invites guests to share in the excitement of NASA's next rocket launch with the Sept. 8 scheduled lift-off of a United Launch Alliance Delta II Heavy rocket carrying the twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft on their mission to the moon.

The twin spacecraft will orbit the moon to determine the structure of the lunar interior from crust to core and to advance understanding of the thermal evolution of the moon.

The launch, the last Delta II launch currently scheduled from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, is scheduled for 8:37 a.m. with a second window planned for 9:17 a.m. if needed.

Special viewing of the launch is available to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex guests from the NASA Causeway, located within Kennedy Space Center, for just $20 plus the cost of admission (required).

The GRAIL launch viewing opportunity is limited to the first 2,000 guests to purchase admission and launch tickets by phone at 866-383-2946 or in person at the Visitor Complex ticket plaza. Advance purchase is strongly suggested.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will open at 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 8. Bus boarding for the NASA Causeway begins at 5:30 a.m. with last departure at 7:30 a.m.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will celebrate the GRAIL launch with four days of special launch-related activities. Please note, rocket launch and programming schedules are subject to change without notice. For times and locations of all activities, visit the complex's website.

From Wednesday, Sept. 7 through Saturday, Sept. 10, guests may:

  • View the "It's a New Moon" exhibit: touch a moon rock, sit in a student-built moon buggy from NASA's Great Moon Buggy Race and virtually guide the Exploration Uplink rover based at NASA's Desert Research and Technology Studies area near Flagstaff, Arizona.
  • Watch the IMAX 3D moon film Magnificent Desolation, produced by Tom Hanks.
Wednesday, September 7
  • Hear first-hand from lunar scientists involved with the GRAIL mission.
  • Take part in the Scientists in Action live webcast and ask questions of GRAIL scientists.
Thursday, September 8
  • Experience the launch of the Delta II rocket, either from NASA Causeway (with purchase of additional $20 ticket) or from the Visitor Complex.
  • Hear from Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke as he shares his experiences on the moon's surface and conducts a book signing.
  • Attend Lunch With an Astronaut with Charlie Duke (with purchase of additional ticket, $29.99 for adults, $20.99 for children ages 3-11; advance reservations required.
  • Meet Star Trek's Lieutenant Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, who will be signing autographs and taking photos with visitors to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the first airing of the Star Trek series at the Star Trek bridge.
  • Hear about the latest "other-world" discoveries from a panel of space experts including: astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose Director at the Hayden Planetarium; and Steven W. Lee, Department Chair and Curator of Planetary Science at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
  • Take part in the Scientists in Action live webcast and ask questions of GRAIL scientists.
  • Receive free mini MoonPie for children 11 years and under while supplies last.
Friday, September 9
  • Attend an "Eyes on the Solar System" demonstration, NASA's new 3D interactive experience to explore the cosmos and travel with robotic space probes.
Saturday, September 10
  • Hear first-hand from the head of the GRAIL mission, Dr. Maria Zuber.
  • Attend an "Eyes on the Solar System" demonstration, NASA's new 3D interactive experience to explore the cosmos and travel with robotic space probes.
frank3siAt roughly 8 a.m. Eastern this morning, I was watching the NASA TV feed and saw what appeared to be a large animal amble right to left through the brush. I once saw a bobcat at KSC when I was near Pad 39B, but this looked larger than that. Did anyone else notice this?
nojnjIn Orlando, Florida for a last minute trip. Where would be a good public site to view the launch?
Robert PearlmanIf you can, get yourself to Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral. See Launch Photography's Delta II viewing guide.
Fezman92Why will it take so long for GRAIL to get to the moon? I thought it took 3-4 days to reach the moon.
Robert Pearlman
Originally posted by Fezman92:
Why will it take so long for GRAIL to get to the moon?
From NASA's GRAIL launch blog:
The GRAIL spacecraft will not go directly to the moon, but instead are taking a circuitous route that calls for them to loop out deep into space on a journey that will cover about 2.6 million miles and take three-and-a-half months. By taking the longer path, the spacecraft don't have to use much fuel to slow down and go into lunar orbit. Apollo capsules carrying astronauts took three days to reach the moon, but they had to fire their braking rocket to go into lunar orbit.
nojnjRobert, thanks for the heads up regarding Jetty Park! What a great place to view a launch! This was my first ever launch, and I was as giddy as a schoolboy. Brought tears to my eyes. How exciting to watch with my daughter, Hannah!
music_spaceI like this mission. I guess I get off on it because of its simplicity and elegance. Its design evokes physics experiments from the 18th century. Two satellites whose own mass are the main scientific sensors, state-of-the-art clockwork, reliable ranging systems, precise burns, and Sir Isaac Newton in the driver's seat!
Fezman92For me it is one of those "weekend projects" that you could build at home due to the simple elegance of it and that they are going to the moon which means that we get the data much more quickly.
MCroft04This is pretty exciting! I can't wait to see the data these two probes send us over the next 2-3 months. I predict something unexpected will be learned.
garymilgromCongratulations to the GRAIL team for two successful orbital insertions. NASA makes these things look routine, when in fact they are anything but easy.

I'm looking forward to the science we'll see starting in March.

MCroft04Good point; guess we'll have to wait a while to see the goodies.
Robert Pearlman
NASA to Provide Dec. 17 Commentary as Twin Probes End Lunar Mission

NASA will provide live commentary of the scheduled lunar surface impacts of its twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft beginning at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST) Monday, Dec. 17. The event will be broadcast on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website.

The two probes will hit a mountain near the lunar north pole at approximately 2:28 p.m. Monday, bringing their successful prime and extended science missions to an end.

Commentary will originate from the control room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. Coverage will last about 35 minutes and include live interviews with GRAIL team members. GRAIL's final resting place on the moon will be in shadow at the time of impact, so no video documentation of the impacts is expected.

Data from the GRAIL twins are allowing scientists to learn about the moon's internal structure and composition in unprecedented detail. The two probes are being sent purposely into the moon because they do not have enough altitude or fuel to continue science operations.

stsmithvaAn INCREDIBLE video of images from just before Ebb's impact has been released. I'll embed it below, but you really might want to go directly to YouTube and make it full-screen. Here's the write-up from Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy:
At the very end of 2011, NASA put two space probes into lunar orbit. Together they were called GRAIL, for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory. Individually named Ebb and Flow, they made very sensitive measurements of the Moon’s gravity, which was used to probe the interior composition and density of our nearest cosmic neighbor. To do this, they had to fly in formation very close to the lunar surface.

After the successful completion of both prime and extended missions, there wasn't enough fuel left to raise their altitude to a safe, stable orbit. So, instead, the probes’ orbits were lowered to crash land them on the lunar surface. On Dec. 17, 2012, both spacecraft slammed into the northern regions of the Moon…and the folks at NASA JPL created this amazing movie comprised of images taken by Ebb on Dec. 14, just a few days before it and its partner met their dusty demise.

Note the animation is displayed at 6x normal speed. The spacecraft were over the far side of the Moon, near Jackson crater, and about 10 kilometers (six miles) above the surface when these shots were taken.

The impact site was eventually named after Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, and true pioneer. That was a nice touch by NASA.

BlackarrowIt's a shame the Apollo ALSEPs were all switched off to save a little money.

If any of the seismometers had still been operating, the Grail impacts would have provided further data.

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