Rocket Man Aboard GRAIL
I can’t go to the moon. Yes it bugs me that we don’t fly people to the moon, but you probably already know that.
For me personally however…even if I had a ride…there are other concerns. Although I am quite healthy for my age, I doubt I would pass a physical for lengthy space flight. Plus, people who rely on me cause me to prefer to avoid certain types of personal risks, not to mention the very real fact that the serious neglect of my education back when I was young means that no one anyone has reason to send me there.
However, yesterday I orbited the moon anyway. I know it isn’t the same thing, but I rode along with Grail-A on New Years Eve using NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System and hung on while the spacecraft, engine blazing, shot over the moon at sixty-something miles above the surface.
Now Eyes On is just a simulation, and it was just showing me what the probe had been programmed to do, not necessarily what it was actually doing (realtime communications were probably not active anyway because of the spacecraft’s orientation angle during the burn). The view of the moon was not real and not high-resolution; there are no cameras aboard this spacecraft that are designed for realtime imaging; and the GRAIL twins are too far away from each other to see more than a dot of each other.
But it was realtime and it was fun, even from my livingroom.
Do you want to try it? GRAIL-B is next and is coming in fast toward the moon as I write this. Click here for your GRAIL-eye view! Also helpful are the mission status updates through SpaceFlight NOW. GRAIL-B’s engine kicks on at 5:05 pm Eastern Time to slip it into Lunar orbit, but you can beam on over to the spacecraft any time and have a look. After that both spacecraft will take some weeks to work their way into the flat orbit they need to do their science.
If you get bored hanging out with GRAIL, you can click the “Destination” tab and jump on Voyager-2, or Juno, or Cassini or something. Here’s one…someone online asked if the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter could image the arrival of GRAIL. The answer is no, but just because LRO isn’t designed for that, doesn’t mean that you can’t use Eyes On to jump to the LRO and spin the view around to face a GRAIL spacecraft, unless the moon is in the way. I just tried it and even though there are roughly 12 thousand miles between them at this writing, I can see the location and path of GRAIL-B flying overhead.
Or maybe you’ll just say, “This is silly and Bill Housley is a hopeless geek.”
That’s fine too. 🙂
- NASA spacecraft enters moon’s orbit (cbc.ca)
- NASA probe orbiting moon for New Year’s (cbsnews.com)
- First of twin NASA probes reaches moon orbit (sfgate.com)
- Nasa Probe Circling the Moon on New Year’s Eve (maboulette.wordpress.com)
- First of NASA’s Two GRAIL Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around Moon (prnewswire.com)
- Moon countdown: NASA probe enters lunar orbit (newsok.com)
- NASA to map moon’s gravitational field (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- NASA’s New Year’s Resolution: Have 2 Gravity Probes Orbit the Moon (space.com)
- NASA spacecraft seeking lunar answers (mysanantonio.com)
- Twin NASA Probes Have New Year’s Date with the Moon (foxnews.com)
- Moon countdown: NASA probe enters lunar orbit – Salt Lake Tribune (sltrib.com)
- NASA’s GRAIL-A spacecraft 24 hours away from Moon (physorg.com)
- First of two NASA probes reaches lunar orbit (vancouversun.com)