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Moon NASA Science

NASA Prepares Probes For Suicide Mission 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the goodbye-cruel-moon dept.
Press2ToContinue writes "According to a NASA news release, 'Twin lunar-orbiting NASA spacecraft that have allowed scientists to learn more about the internal structure and composition of the moon are being prepared for their controlled descent and impact on a mountain near the moon's north pole at about 2:28 p.m. PST (5:28 p.m. EST) Monday, Dec. 17. Ebb and Flow, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission probes, are being sent purposely into the lunar surface because their low orbit and low fuel levels preclude further scientific operations. The duo's 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. Both spacecraft will hit the surface at 3,760 mph (1.7 kilometers per second). No imagery of the impact is expected because the region will be in shadow at the time.' That's too bad; observing the impacts could provide valuable feedback. For example, a spectrographic analysis of the impact dust cloud could reveal additional density and compositional element information for the lunar polar surfaces." Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society has more information about the violent end to GRAIL's mission. If the probes were going to hit the surface of the Moon vertically, they would probably leave a crater about 3 or 4 meters in diameter. However, they are actually coming in at a very slight angle: 1.5 degrees from the horizontal, though the mountain itself has a 20-degree slope. Despite the darkness at the impact site, NASA will attempt to monitor the crashes using the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
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NASA Prepares Probes For Suicide Mission

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  • Suicide mission eh! Is this part of the NASA outreach to Muslims [foxnews.com]?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wisnoskij (1206448)

      This has to be the cleverest joke I have seen on /. in a long time.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        This has to be the cleverest joke I have seen on /. in a long time.

        Yes, stereotyping a large portion of the world population because of the actions of miniscule percentage of it is funny and clever as hell. By the way, nice propeller hat there, nerd. When are you going to move out of mom's basement? I bet you get invited to all the cool parties. See how clever I am? x_x

        • by tbird81 (946205)

          Wow you're an uptight dickhead. Have you never heard of Muslim suicide bombers? It's what they do!

          So we've not allowed to discuss it, or joke about it because it's offensive?

          Let me guess - you're "European".

    • Why is it Always that I have no mod points when I need them? Very nice Sir!
    • It's about the holy GRAIL dammit [youtube.com] and its superhuman powers.
    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      Suicide mission eh! Is this part of the NASA outreach to Muslims [foxnews.com]?

      Actually they've been showing the probes the Twilight movies in an endless loop for weeks now. The probes seem quite excited at the prospect of dying on the mission.

  • Wait! (Score:5, Funny)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday December 14, 2012 @08:50AM (#42286185)

    Don't do it GRAIL! You have so much still to live for! Remember the brave Rovers! They're still out there, long after their parents abandoned them, staring up at the red sky. Believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything! Call the satellite suicide hotline now.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    These are unmanned probes. Way to headline, folks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rossdee (243626)

      Exactly - its not like they are going to go to heaven and get 72 virgins for this martyrdom.

      The 2nd law of robotics (robots must obey humans) trumps the 3rd law (self preservation)

      • The 2nd law of robotics (robots must obey humans) trumps the 3rd law (self preservation)

        This is the issue I've always had with the 3 laws, why can't we value all sentient life (both organic and synthetic) with equal respect.

        • But if the human built device is programmed for and relies on the three laws exclusively and is incapable of rational thought, it is not sentient is it?
      • The 2nd law of robotics (robots must obey humans) trumps the 3rd law (self preservation)

        Unless, or course, hookers and booze are in play.

      • by dywolf (2673597)

        Only as long as the electro-psychological potentials are in proper working order.
        Don't forget what happened to Robot LVX-1.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Definition of a probe is pretty much 'throw it way when done'. Right? They don't come back to Earth.

    • by crepe-boy (950569)
      Plus they are doing it at the behest of their evil human overlords, so this is MURDER, rather than "suicide". ...but "NASA murders their worker [robots]" probably isn't the kind of headline they'd like.
  • by Kergan (780543) on Friday December 14, 2012 @09:12AM (#42286333)

    NASA is not showing much of a sense of humor here.

    On a very personal note, I wish they'd fly it out of the solar system, in the hopes that it might eventually land on a planet somewhere after drifting through space for a few billion years.

    Because, who knows... maybe a few bacteria currently contaminate the probe, survive the drift through space, and end up finding their new planet hospitable. Or more fun yet, it could land within the reach of pre-modern civilization somewhere [imdb.com].

    • by isorox (205688) on Friday December 14, 2012 @09:28AM (#42286433) Homepage Journal

      NASA is not showing much of a sense of humor here.

      On a very personal note, I wish they'd fly it out of the solar system, in the hopes that it might eventually land on a planet somewhere after drifting through space for a few billion years.

      Because, who knows... maybe a few bacteria currently contaminate the probe, survive the drift through space, and end up finding their new planet hospitable. Or more fun yet, it could land within the reach of pre-modern civilization somewhere [imdb.com].

      These probes don't have enough fuel to get back to earth, let alone escape the sun's gravity well.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        doing this just before the Mayan not-really-predicted end of the Earth is pretty funny. All the GRAILs need to do is hit the moon's Exhaust Port in a Death-Star-like manner and bingo... Earth dies in a shower of moon bits.

    • by feedayeen (1322473) on Friday December 14, 2012 @09:28AM (#42286437)

      We don't have enough fuel to actually send these things anywhere but down. As for why we don't just leave them there, usually satellites are usually decommissioned when they run out of some resource. For commercial satellites, it's usually the fuel used to maneuver, which means that it will no longer be able to doge debris so it's best to ditch them there, but for scientific applications, we often have a tank of liquid He or N2 somewhere used to cool an instrument. When that tank runs out, you have to ask if the other sensors are worthwhile to keep which occasionally they are.

      If the probe is worthless, it'll just add to the satellite debris and 200 years from now it'll be a problem. But these things have a lot of kinetic energy and we really don't know what's even a foot underground on the moon so you might as well crash it and look to see what you find. As for why we're doing it at night, the moon has a temperature swing of over 200 degrees between day and night, we don't want any volatile compounds to evaporate before we get a chance to look.

      • As for why we're doing it at night, the moon has a temperature swing of over 200 degrees between day and night, we don't want any volatile compounds to evaporate before we get a chance to look.

        The article suggests there'll be no imagery at all, either of the impact or any dust cloud.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I seem to recall previous intentional crashes like this were done on the dark side, but done very near the terminator, so that the ejecta could be seen after it had risen to a certain altitude; this let earth based telescopes see it and get the spectra.

          ----0 { earth
          ----o { moon
           
          `__'__` { sun

          Is a similar thing being done this time?

    • This is simply a controlled demolition, instead of just letting it drift around the solar system, possibly eventually crashing into the side of your house.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        While it's not possible, I WISH one would hit your house and the other would hit GP's, as your punishment for both being so scientifically illiterate.

        They're deep in the bottom of a bloody gravity well WITHOUT ENOUGH FUEL TO KEEP MAKING TINY CORRECTIONS IN THEIR ORBIT, so where in hell do you morons think they'll get the delta-v to leave the lunar AND TERRAN grav wells and "drift around the solar system", or even to leave the lunar grav well to strike GP's house (presumably on Earth)?! They're crashing on t

        • Oh, you know, they're out in SPACE, and pretty much everywhere in SPACE is the same. Moons, planets, stars, galaxies ... it's all SPACE. Once you're one place in SPACE, getting to any other place in SPACE should be easy, right?

          Compare to HISTORY and ASIA.

          • Once you're one place in SPACE, getting to any other place in SPACE should be easy, right?

            The term "easy" as you use it is measured in a unit called Delta-V, which is a function of mostly a) spacecraft mass, and b) remaining fuel supplies. In this case, the probes don't have enough easy (don't have enough Delta-V) to get back to Earth.

            Actually, I do realize that you were being sarcastic. This post is really for those people who don't understand why the Space Shuttle can't get to the moon, or why the ISS cannot be sent to Mars.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        This is simply a controlled demolition, instead of just letting it drift around the solar system, possibly eventually crashing into the side of your house.

        As Sheldon would say, "Oh, good lard!" They're small. They don't have enough fuel to escape the moon's gravity. If they could hit the earth, they'd burn up completely in the atmosphere.

        I think you need some more coffee, son.

      • They are purposely being crashed on the dark side of the moon so as not to contaminate previous mission sites.

        "There will be no more extended missions, because Ebb and Flow are almost out of fuel. The spacecraft will crash into the lunar surface eventually, so the Grail team is bringing them down in a controlled fashion. (An uncontrolled crash would pose an eight-in-a-million risk of hitting a heritage site, researchers said.) "This is all according to plan," Zuber said. A little bit of science left O

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      You never heard of the Voyager probes?

    • They're low on fuel, and in a very low orbit over the moon. Once they run out of fuel, the moon's uneven gravitational field will ensure they'll crash soon anyway. Better to make it a controlled crash; I'd rather not have them crash into the Apollo 11 landing site.

  • Where do I sign?
  • Unbeknownst to us, the probes are actually going to hit the secret underground Mayan moon base (where they went after the aliens gave them the technology to leave behind the famine on Earth that would have wiped them out), and they are going to attack on 12/21. You heard it here first!
  • I don't see anywhere in the article where they don't have enough fuel to escape the moon's gravity. They've stated that they don't expect to be able to monitor the landing for any additional research. So have them head out into the great unknown instead of smashing them into the moon.

    I guess this says all that needs to be said about our cultural mindset. "We don't need it any more, just toss it over there."

    • I don't see anywhere in the article where they don't have enough fuel to escape the moon's gravity.

      As usual, reading the actual article (or even the summary, FFS!) is a bit too hard for some.
      "Ebb and Flow, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission probes, are being sent purposely into the lunar surface because their low orbit and low fuel levels preclude further scientific operations."

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