NASA'S Grail Lunar Impact Site Named For Astronaut Sally Ride

        NASA'S Grail Lunar Impact Site Named For Astronaut Sally Ride

PR Newswire

PASADENA, Calif., Dec. 17, 2012

PASADENA, Calif., Dec. 17, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA has named the
site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honor of the
late astronaut, Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a
member of the probes' mission team.


Last Friday, Ebb and Flow, the two spacecraft comprising NASA's Gravity
Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, were commanded to descend
into a lower orbit that would result in an impact Monday on a mountain near
the moon's north pole. The formation-flying duo hit the lunar surface as
planned at 2:28:51 p.m. PST (5:28:51 p.m. EST) and 2:29:21 p.m. PST (5:29:21
p.m. EST)at a speed of 3,760 mph (1.7 kilometers per second). The location of
the Sally K. Ride Impact Site is on the southern face of an approximately 1.5
mile- (2.5 -kilometer) tall mountain near a crater named Goldschmidt.

"Sally was all about getting the job done, whether it be in exploring space,
inspiring the next generation, or helping make the GRAIL mission the
resounding success it is today," said GRAIL principal investigator Maria Zuber
of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "As we complete our
lunar mission, we are proud we can honor Sally Ride's contributions by naming
this corner of the moon after her."

The impact marked a successful end to the GRAIL mission, which was NASA's
first planetary mission to carry cameras fully dedicated to education and
public outreach. Ride, who died in July after a 17-month battle with
pancreatic cancer, led GRAIL's MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle
School Students) Program through her company, Sally Ride Science, in San

Along with its primary science instrument, each spacecraft carried a MoonKAM
camera that took more than 115,000 total images of the lunar surface. Imaging
targets were proposed by middle school students from across the country and
the resulting images returned for them to study. The names of the spacecraft
were selected by Ride and the mission team from student submissions in a
nationwide contest.

"Sally Ride worked tirelessly throughout her life to remind all of us,
especially girls, to keep questioning and learning," said Sen. Barbara
Mikulski of Maryland. "Today her passion for making students part of NASA's
science is honored by naming the impact site for her."

Fifty minutes prior to impact, the spacecraft fired their engines until the
propellant was depleted. The maneuver was designed to determine precisely the
amount of fuel remaining in the tanks. This will help NASA engineers validate
computer models to improve predictions of fuel needs for future missions.

"Ebb fired its engines for 4 minutes, 3 seconds and Flow fired its for 5
minutes, 7 seconds," said GRAIL project manager David Lehman of NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "It was one final important
set of data from a mission that was filled with great science and engineering

The mission team deduced that much of the material aboard each spacecraft was
broken up in the energy released during the impacts. Most of what remained
probably is buried in shallow craters. The craters' size may be determined
when NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter returns images of the area in several

Launched in September 2011, Ebb and Flow had been orbiting the moon since Jan.
1, 2012. The probes intentionally were sent into the lunar surface because
they did not have sufficient altitude or fuel to continue science operations.
Their successful prime and extended science missions generated the highest
resolution gravity field map of any celestial body. The map will provide a
better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system
formed and evolved.

"We will miss our lunar twins, but the scientists tell me it will take years
to analyze all the great data they got, and that is why we came to the moon in
the first place," Lehman said. "So long, Ebb and Flow, and we thank you."

JPL manages the GRAIL mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in
Washington. GRAIL is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in
Denver built the spacecraft.

For more information about GRAIL, visit:


Contact: Dwayne Brown, Headquarters, Washington, +1-202-358-1726,; D.C. Agle, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,
Calif., +1-818-393-9011,; Sarah McDonnell, Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., +1-617-253-8923,
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