Twin spacecraft prepared for moon mission -

Published: Aug. 30, 2011 at 8:57 PM

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Aug. 30 (UPI) -- NASA says final preparations are under way for a launch of twin satellites intended to study the moon in greater detail than ever before.

The space agency's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission is set for a scheduled Sept. 8 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a NASA release said. During a planned nine-month mission, the twin GRAIL spacecraft will explore Earth's nearest neighbor in unprecedented detail, surveying its structure from crust to core.

The two satellites have sealed atop the launch rocket, ready for liftoff.

"Our two spacecraft are now sitting comfortably inside the payload fairing which will protect them during ascent," said David Lehman, GRAIL project manager for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.. "Next time the GRAIL twins will see the light of day, they will be about 95 miles up and accelerating."

Once in lunar orbit, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B will transmit radio signals precisely defining the distance between them while regional gravitational differences on the moon expand and contract that distance.

GRAIL scientists will use the accurate measurements to define the moon's gravity field to understand what goes on below the surface of our orbiting companion.

31 Aug, 2011

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