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Moon NASA Space Science

GRAIL Probes Complete Primary Mission Ahead of Schedule 43

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the large-cheese-deposits-discovered dept.
Zothecula writes with an update on NASA's lunar mapping probes. From the article: "After entering orbit around the Moon at the start of the year, NASA's twin GRAIL probes, Ebb and Flow, have completed their primary mission to study the Moon's interior structure ahead of schedule. Operating around the clock since March 8, NASA says the spacecraft have provided unprecedented detail about the interior structure and evolution of the Moon and the data they have gathered will provide insights into how Earth and its rocky neighbors in the inner solar system developed." And their extended mission? From NASA: "The extended mission goal is to take an even closer look at the moon's gravity field. To achieve this, GRAIL mission planners will halve their current operating altitude to the lowest altitude that can be safely maintained. 'Orbiting at an average altitude of 14 miles (23 kilometers) during the extended mission, the GRAIL twins will be clearing some of the moon's higher surface features by about 5 miles (8 kilometers),' said Joe Beerer of JPL, GRAIL's mission manager."
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GRAIL Probes Complete Primary Mission Ahead of Schedule

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  • by aitikin (909209) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @01:07PM (#40157031)
    ...was it a tetrahedran [wikipedia.org] or a monolith?
  • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @01:10PM (#40157055)

    the spacecraft have provided unprecedented detail about the interior structure and evolution of the Moon and the data they have gathered will provide insights into how Earth and its rocky neighbors in the inner solar system developed

    Such as?

    • by gpronger (1142181)
      This data is top secret. First, the giant Moon Man colony and vast tunnel network is not for public consumption. As well as the fact that over the millennia, the outer crust, only a few dozen feet deep, is solely composed of debris adhering to its inner matrix. The rest of it (the moon ) is in fact cheese. When the famine strikes the Earth, the Moon will then be for public consumption.
    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      They don't know yet. What they have now is a crapload of data. It's going to take a long time to analyze it and figure out what it means, and what it implies about the development of other bodies.

      • Of course! The people that put the insturments in the craft didn't bother to create a manual so that the staff monitoring the craft would know what it's doing, or how to control it. Now the craft controllers have to figure it out on their own, makes sense to me.

        I think that if the powers that be wanted to increase spending for NASA, then telling folks what's on the Moon would be a good first step. Good time for an "Assay Office?". Maybe this would be a good use of the "Freedom of Information Act Request?"
        • Re:Such as? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @02:33PM (#40158203) Homepage

          Of course! The people that put the insturments in the craft didn't bother to create a manual so that the staff monitoring the craft would know what it's doing, or how to control it. Now the craft controllers have to figure it out on their own, makes sense to me.

          Um... the staff monitoring the craft do know what it's doing, and how to control it. That doesn't mean they can magically turn the data acquired by the probe into meaningful conclusions without any effort.

          I'm sure your post made sense to you, but it has nothing to do with anything in reality.

          • Oh? I'll slow down for you. It would be amazing that the sensors on both spacecraft were not functioning when entering Lunar Orbit. It should be no mystery that certain elements have certain densities. It is stated that both craft, "have provided unprecedented detail about the interior structure." The usage of "have provided" states that the operators know what's there, and have already evaluated the data. Both craft have passed over the same surface multiple times; at this point, if anything had changed
            • by Chris Burke (6130)

              Oh? I'll slow down for you. It would be amazing that the sensors on both spacecraft were not functioning when entering Lunar Orbit.

              That's what you were trying to say? You don't need to slow down you just need to say things in a way that makes sense. Yes, the sensors were functioning when it entered orbit and nearly continuously since.

              The usage of "have provided" states that the operators know what's there, and have already evaluated the data.

              No, it only means that the craft has provided data of unprecedented detail, and that it's about the lunar structure. These aren't Star Trek sensors that just "scan" the moon and somehow directly spit out all the salient details about its composition. Actually going from the raw gravity sensor data to t

              • Are we having a "bad moment?" You omitted the 40 Year comment. Why?
                • by Chris Burke (6130)

                  Why wouldn't I? Just to pile on the "My anger about manned exploration causes me to not understand what's going on today" theme? If nonsense and angry tangents is a "good moment', then what's "bad"?

      • by vlm (69642)

        It's going to take a long time to analyze it and figure out what it means, and what it implies about the development of other bodies.

        spacecraft have provided unprecedented detail about the interior structure and evolution of the Moon

        Article certainly sounded like they were already done with your two tasks that will "take a long time". If they phrased as "spacecraft might someday provide..." then I'd agree.

        Also "provided unprecedented detail" = run that thru a plotter program and print out maps and xsections and/or put it up on the FTP site today. I donno if I'd be able to do anything but look and say 'oh cool' but at least I could.
        The implications about moon evolution, now thats a multi year PHD at least.
        Two separate timeframes.

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          Article certainly sounded like they were already done with your two tasks that will "take a long time".

          No, the article only makes it sound like the data collection is done. And it is. Data of unprecedented detail, and about the structure of the moon. That doesn't mean you just run the data through a plotter and get a picture of what the data means about the structure of the moon. That will take time.

          Sorry you're disappointed that this article is only about the successful end of the main mission, and not about the conclusions from that mission's data, but that's what it is.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can you imagine standing on one of the higher elevations of the moon and seeing this thing come whipping towards you at 10 km/s? Fuck, we need a moon base.

    • by otaku244 (1804244)
      Think about this: Mt. Everest is roughly 5.5 miles high. These "high surface features" are a little short of 2x that height and the satellites will fly roughly one Mt. Everest over that (equivalent to the cruising altitude of a commercial airliner). Now imagine that you will have the good fortune of standing on that surface feature watching it fly by at roughly 36,000 km/h or roughly 50x faster than a commercial airliner.
      • by butalearner (1235200) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @02:31PM (#40158173)

        Think about this: Mt. Everest is roughly 5.5 miles high. These "high surface features" are a little short of 2x that height and the satellites will fly roughly one Mt. Everest over that (equivalent to the cruising altitude of a commercial airliner). Now imagine that you will have the good fortune of standing on that surface feature watching it fly by at roughly 36,000 km/h or roughly 50x faster than a commercial airliner.

        Don't forget it's the size of a washing machine. So I can definitely imagine seeing, at most, a speck of light for a brief moment if the angles between me, the spacecraft, and the sun are just right, assuming I'm looking in exactly the right direction. That would be awesome!

      • by mk1004 (2488060)

        Think about this: Mt. Everest is roughly 5.5 miles high. These "high surface features" are a little short of 2x that height and the satellites will fly roughly one Mt. Everest over that (equivalent to the cruising altitude of a commercial airliner). Now imagine that you will have the good fortune of standing on that surface feature watching it fly by at roughly 36,000 km/h or roughly 50x faster than a commercial airliner.

        Mmm. At 110,000 meters above the surface of the moon, it should be orbiting at about 1,630m/s or 5864km/h, not 36,000km/h.

      • Don't forget that a commercial airliner has a pilot who can say "hmm! That mountain looks a little close, I'd better steer around it".
        The satellites can change their orbits but it takes a heap of planning and maybe nobody will see the obstacle in time to prevent it.

        Or as the Gary Larson cartoon put it "What is that mountain goat doing way up here in the clouds?"

  • There are two NASAs: The Bad NASA that wastes billions on manned pork rockets to nowhere and the Good NASA (Jet Propulsion Lab) that has had one success after another with unmanned probes. I love it when the ex-pilots who run NASA try to take credit for JPL's success, even when they are trying to kill planetary exploration in favor of more manned pork.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Part of the reason JPL is the "Good NASA" is that the Lab isn't managed by NASA, but rather by CalTech. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_Propulsion_Laboratory

      • Yup! It is operated for science. The Bad NASA is operated to create pork jobs in Houston. Even decommissioning the shuttle fleet was insanely expensive; Houston had to wring every last dollar out of the program. Houston's Space Launch System is the Rocket To Nowhere and I doubt it will ever get off the ground.
    • Which NASA buried all those probes into Martian soil?

      • Which NASA killed all those astro-naughts? Which one is still operating the Opportunity rover 6 years past its expected lifetime? Which NASA is still running the the Voyagers probes? Or Cassini? JPL has dozens of missions in space. The two failures at Mars were a direct result of NASA HQ (i.e. Golden) dictating Faster, Better, Cheaper to JPL. Since then it has been one success after another at Mars and elsewhere in the solar system.
    • There are two NASAs: The Bad NASA that wastes billions on manned pork rockets to nowhere and the Good NASA (Jet Propulsion Lab) that has had one success after another with unmanned probes. I love it when the ex-pilots who run NASA try to take credit for JPL's success, even when they are trying to kill planetary exploration in favor of more manned pork.

      There's actually a 3rd NASA. It's the "hidden NASA" that very few notice - I'll give you a hint - it deals with the first "A".

      NASA actually does a lot of research/testing for aeronautics. It's just relatively low-key. If you're a pilot, you also keep a handy stack of NASA Aviation Safety Reporting forms with you (NASA is tasked as a neutral party to manage aviation safety issues - NASA anonymizes the forms before forwarding to the NTSB/FAA).

      It's only the space parts that get all the glory. All the down-on-Earth parts work in relative obscurity.

      • by slew (2918)

        NASA is tasked as a neutral party to manage aviation safety issues

        Of course when push comes to shove, the NTSB/FAA calls in the mounties [nbcwashington.com] (aka TSB Canada) instead...

  • by sconeu (64226) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @02:58PM (#40158513) Homepage Journal

    But have they calculated the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

  • by jheath314 (916607) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @04:11PM (#40159619)

    If you want to get a sense of how low that orbit is, fire up your favorite paint program and draw a circle 1000 px wide, representing the moon's average diameter (3,475 km). The circle representing the orbit is only 1013 px wide, just six pixels above the average surface and only two pixels away from the highest features.

    Looking at this another way, the ratio of the craft's average altitude to the moon's diameter is slightly less than the ratio of an egg shell to the diameter of that egg.

  • Definitely, those probes are trying to see if the moon is indeed hollow. NASA knows from the instruments they left there in the '70s that the moon rings like a bell when something hits it. It could mean it's hollow or has large hollow spaces within it. http://keelynet.com/unclass/luna.htm [keelynet.com]

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