NASA is set to launch the ultimate moon mission in four days time. NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) Mission is all set for launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad, Florida on the 8th of September. The first launch window on 8th September occurs at 8:37 AM EST and the second launch window occurs 39 minutes later at 9:16 AM EST. There will be similar launch windows at about the same time on the following days also.
UPDATE: GRAIL launch has been postponed from the scheduled 8:37 AM EST to 9:16 AM EST. The first launch window was abandoned due to turbulent upper atmospheric conditions.
NEW UPDATE: GRAIL Launch has been scrubbed for today. The new launch time for GRAIL has not been announced, but we are definitely seeing a 24 hour delay. The new launch windows will open up on the 9th of Sept at 8:33 AM EST and 9:12 AM EST. Officials are putting a 40% chance on the weather co-operating during launch time. So, we might be looking at a long delay.
NEW UPDATE: The GRAIL launch has been scheduled for September 10th, giving NASA a day in between to do more checks. The windows will be at 8:33 AM EST and 9:14 AM EST. The weather is expected to be ’60% co-operative’, which should be good enough.
NEW UPDATE: The Launch was scheduled for the first window on 10th September. Due to upper atmospheric wind conditions, it has been shifted to the second launch window at 9:08 AM EST (1838 IST and 1408 GMT). The rocket will be launched at 99 degrees to the vertical.
Webcast: NASA’s Official Youtube Link
NASA TV Link: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html
About the GRAIL
GRAIL is the most definitive of all lunar missions ever launched and aims to achieve an ambitious series of goals in its nine-month flight around the moon. GRAIL consists of two spacecrafts GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B. They will be launched with the help of the powerful Delta II Rockets. Both will take long paths around the moon making important measurements, the most important of these being the strength of the gravity field around Earth’s only natural satellite.
Measuring Gravity the Einsteinian way
The twin spacecrafts will be measuring the time on their respective clocks and also the relative distances between them using radio signals over a few days. Both measurements will be skewed from the normal’ measurements due to the presence of the Moon’s gravitational field according to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. This data will help scientists make the most accurate measurement of the moon’s gravitational field strength ever.
Apart from the gravity measurements, GRAIL will also try to figure out the composition of the lunar crust. Accurate information about the composition of the crust will help scientist construct a proper theory as to how the moon came to be a debatable subject till now. It may also answer how the inner planets formed during the formation of the Solar System.
Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from MIT says:
GRAIL will unlock lunar mysteries and help us understand how the moon, Earth and other rocky planets evolved as well
NASA will have live webcasts of the launch and also blogs from a number of the scientists associated with the mission. You can follow it here. We’ll be bringing you any big developments on the GRAIL mission right here on TB.
Humanity has indeed come a long way from the days when the full moon was linked to werewolves. Measuring the gravitational field of moon with utmost precision seems a much better aim of life.
Find out about NASA’s Tweetup Event on the GRAIL launch here: http://techie-buzz.com/science/nasa-moon-grail-tweetup.html
Image Credits: NASA/JPL, Caltech