GRAIL Impacts the Moon

Grail Impacts the Moon
CreditNASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
Language
  • english

The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission comprises a pair of satellites launched in September, 2011 and placed in orbit around the Moon in January, 2012. The two satellites, named Ebb and Flow, used radio signals to precisely measure their separation as they flew in formation, one following the other in the same nearly circular polar orbit. These measurements allowed mission scientists to build up an accurate and detailed gravity map of the Moon.

GRAIL ended its successful mission by impacting the Moon on December 17, 2012 at approximately 5:27 p.m. EST (22:27 UT). The two spacecraft were placed in an orbit that took them within a kilometer of the surface, so low that they hit the side of an unnamed mountain that lies between Mouchez and Philolaus craters, near the north pole at 75°45'N, 26°11'W. Ebb struck first, followed 24 seconds later by Flow.

This animation shows the last three orbits of the two spacecraft, with views of the impact site. The impact occurs on the night side of a waxing crescent Moon, so the view shifts from a natural color Moon to a false-color elevation map.