recommended reading

GRAIL Spacecraft: Celebrating New Year's From the Moon

Although workers on NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission may not be attending New Year's Eve parties this weekend, they aren't too disappointed.

A quarter of a million miles away, the mission's two small spacecraft will enter the moon's orbit to begin what promises to be one of the most detailed studies of its surface and gravity.

"Our team may not get to partake in a traditional New Year's celebration, but I expect seeing our two spacecraft safely in lunar orbit should give us all the excitement and feeling of euphoria anyone in this line of work would ever need," David Lehman, project manager for GRAIL at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement.

The first of the two spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the moon at 4:21 p.m. EST on Saturday, with the second arriving at 5:05 p.m. EST on Sunday. Both were launched in early September on the same United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

By precisely measuring how the moon's gravity affects the distance between the two spacecraft as they orbit during the 82-day mission, researchers expect to better understand the origins of the moon, where humans may someday spend more than a few passing hours at a time. They also hope the $350 million mission will provide some insight into how the Earth and other rocky planets formed.

"I predict we are going to find something ... that is really, really going to surprise us and turn our understanding of how the Earth and other terrestrial planets formed on its ear," said Maria Zuber, the principal investigator with the mission, in an August news briefing.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.