GRAIL gets “Mooned”

Via NASA Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON — A camera aboard one of NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) lunar spacecraft has returned its first unique view of the far side of the moon. MoonKAM, or Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students, will be used by students nationwide to select lunar images for study.  GRAIL consists of two identical spacecraft, recently named Ebb and Flow, each of which is equipped with a MoonKam. The images were taken as part of a test of Ebb’s MoonKam on Jan. 19. The GRAIL project plans to test the MoonKAM aboard Flow at a later date.

In the video, the north pole of the moon is visible at the top of the screen as the spacecraft flies toward the lunar south pole. One of the first prominent geological features seen on the lower third of the moon is the Mare Orientale, a 560 mile-wide (900 kilometer) impact basin that straddles both the moon’s near and far side. The clip ends with rugged terrain just short of the lunar south pole. To the left of center, near the bottom of the screen, is the 93 mile-wide (149 kilometer) Drygalski crater with a distinctive star-shaped formation in the middle. The formation is a central peak, created many billions of years ago by a comet or asteroid impact.

Did you know you can visit the Moon at Space Center Houston? Check out our massive collection of spacecraft and space memorabilia in our world renowned Starship Gallery.  This impressive collection includes a “walk through” trainer for Skylab, the world’s largest collection of Moon rocks (outside of NASA), and a life diorama of the lunar surface!  Save $5 off regular admission when you buy tickets online.  Do something amazing!