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:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


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