NASA to crash GRAIL probes into the Moon to end mapping program

first_imgNASA‘s twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) spacecraft have been flying around the Moon for close to a year, only seven miles above the surface, as part of a mapping mission. The spacecraft have been running low on fuel, and now it’s time to end the mission. In Mythbusters fashion, rather than calmly collect the probes, NASA will crash them into the moon.The probes will aim to crash into a mountain near the Moon’s north pole, a location away from any important sites, ensuring that the probes don’t disrupt other missions or equipment. The GRAIL crafts will smash into the Moon at an estimated 3,760 miles per hour, ensuring their total destruction.The GRAIL mission provided scientists with detailed gravity maps of the Moon, revealing it to have a shallower surface with a more fractured crust than we previously thought, as well as subterranean cracks filled with lava. Aside from simply teaching scientists more about the Moon, the gravity maps should help them pick out future landing sites.MIT scientist Maria Zuber noted the GRAIL mission actually went so well that even in her wildest dreams she could not have imagined it going better, and that NASA will even get around $8 to $9 million back from the mission’s initial $471 million budget.The crashes are expected to happen around 5:28PM EST on Monday, about 20 seconds apart from one another. Unfortunately, the event is not expected to be visible from Earth due to the probes’ fuel tanks being too empty to generate any kind of explosive flash. Fans of expensive scientific equipment being blown apart will have to get their fix elsewhere.Related: NASA releases first video of the far side of the Moonlast_img