Friday, December 14, 2012

The Twin Grail Spacecraft Will Be Crashed Into The Moon

After close to a year circling the Moon, Nasa's Ebb and Flow will meet their demise when they crash  on purpose into the lunar surface. But do not expect to see celestial fireworks   next week's impact near the Moon's north pole  spacecraft will not carve a gaping crater or kick up a lot of debris. And it will be dark when it happens.

A mission chief scientist Maria Zuber, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said
"We are not expecting a big flash or a big explosion" that will be visible from Earth. Still, it will mark a violent end to a successful mission that has produced the most high resolution gravity maps of Earth's closest neighbour. On Friday, engineers will turn off the science instruments in preparation for Monday's finale.

The spacecraft flew about 35 miles above the surface and later dropped down to 14 miles. About an hour before Monday's impact, they will fire their engines until they run out of fuel and slam at 3,800 mph into a predetermined target - a mountain near the north pole that is far away from the Apollo landing sites.
Ebb will hit first followed by Flow 20 seconds later. Though the drama will not be visible from Earth, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will fly over the crash site afterwards and attempt to spot them.

The last time Nasa aimed at the Moon was in 2009. The world watched through telescopes and over the internet as a spacecraft and its booster rocket smashed into a permanently shadowed crater that fizzled when spectators saw little more than a fuzzy white flash.

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