Friday, September 9, 2011



What are you doing here? You should be over at NASA TV watching the GRAIL launch! And in my time zone, we'll watch the sun rise not long afterward! Coverage began yesterday at the NASATweetup, carried on through the first scrub at dawn, and will hopefully culminate tomorrow with a launch.

NASATweetup GRAIL Launch
Charles Bolden at the GRAIL Launch Tweetup

This morning, the Delta II Heavy Launch Vehicle will lift off from Space Launch Complex 17B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida around 8:30 am ET. Or so one hopes. Each GRAIL launch window is 1 second long. Between now and October 19th, there will be 2 launch opportunities per day.

Once away from Earth and headed toward our old friend Selene, the Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission will fly twin spacecraft in tandem orbits. A real first for Moon science!

Twin Moon Satellites

The mission's primary science objectives will be to measure the lunar gravity field, determine the structure of the sub-surface interior from crust to core and to infer the moon's stages of thermal evolution, and also examine the history of asteroid collisions.

Among GRAIL's many hardware charms are the "moonkams", five cameras aboard each spacecraft which will provide a way for students and the public to participate in GRAIL's mission of lunar exploration. NASA astronaut Sally Ride. Over GRAIL's 80-day mission in 2012, classrooms that request photography of target areas on the Moon can check the MoonKam site for images of their selected regions.

GRAIL Mission Emblem
Follow #NASATweetup and #GRAIL trends today on Twitter to see all about the mission launch, or go straight to the Grail-Launch public list.

Also check out the GRAIL Fact Sheet for... way more detail than you probably wanted.