Moon Probe to Give Connecticut Middle Schoolers a Lunar Digital Camera

by Lon Seidman | Aug 12, 2011 9:52am
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Posted to: Education 2.0, GRAIL

Jay Patterson Photo

The twin lunar GRAIL probes prepped for launch in a clean room at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Fla.

Schools in Connecticut and throughout the United States will have an unprecedented opportunity to explore the moon utilizing cameras on NASA’s new GRAIL lunar spacecraft system.

The twin spacecraft are due to lift off from Cape Canaveral next month and will enter lunar orbit three months later.  The twin probes will orbit the moon in tandem 30 miles above the surface measuring the distance between each other and using that data to determine gravitational forces acting on them.  The data will build a gravity map of the moon and give insight into the density and internal composition of Earth’s natural satellite.  A secondary objective will be to use the data to determine how other planetary bodies form in this solar system and others. 

The education portion of the program, called Moonkam, is led by former NASA Astronaut Sally Ride. Middle school students will have the opportunity to request photos of specific locations on either the near or far side of the moon. Those requests will be sent to the GRAIL mission operations center and will be photographed when one of the two spacecraft fly over the location.  The photos will be made available to the requesting school as well as other schools registered on the website for use in the classrooms.  Another program, Earthkam, utilizes a camera aboard the International Space Station to take similar pictures of Earth. 

The GRAIL program is part of NASA’s low cost “Discovery” series of unmanned probes.  Other programs have brought back unprecedented views and data from Mars, comets, and distant asteroids.

CTTechJunkie’s Jay Patterson contributed to this report.

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