GRAIL Heads to the Moon
Fire and smoke light up a blue sky as a United Launch Alliance Delta II Heavy rocket propels NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission into space. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 17B on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida was at 9:08:52 EDT Sept.10.
The spacecraft are embarking on a three-month journey to reach the moon. GRAIL will fly twin spacecraft in tandem around the moon to precisely measure and map variations in the moon's gravitational field. The mission will provide the most accurate global gravity field to date for any planet, including Earth. This detailed information will reveal differences in the density of the moon's crust and mantle and will help answer fundamental questions about the moon's internal structure, thermal evolution, and history of collisions with asteroids. The aim is to map the moon's gravity field so completely that future moon vehicles can safely navigate anywhere on the moon's surface.
Photo credit: NASA/Darrell McCall