GRAIL consists of two identical spacecraft, recently named Ebb and Flow, each of which isequipped with a MoonKAM. The images were taken as part of a test of Ebb's MoonKAM on Jan.19. The GRAIL project plans to test the MoonKAM aboard Flow at a later date.
In the video, the north pole of the moon is visible at the top of the screen as the spacecraft fliestoward the lunar south pole. One of the first prominent geological features seen on the lower third ofthe moon is the Mare Orientale, a 560-mile-wide (900 kilometer) impact basin that straddles both the moon's near and far side.
The clip ends with rugged terrain just short of the lunar south pole. To the left of center, near thebottom of the screen, is the 93-mile-wide (149 kilometer) Drygalski crater with a distinctive star-shaped formation in the middle. The formation is a central peak, created many billions of years agoby a comet or asteroid impact.
"The quality of the video is excellent and should energize our MoonKAM students as they prepareto explore the moon," said Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from the MassachusettsInstitute of Technology in Cambridge.
The twin spacecraft successfully achieved lunar orbit this past New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.Previously named GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B, the washing machine-sized spacecraft received theirnew names from fourth graders at the Emily Dickinson Elementary School in Bozeman, Mont.,following a nationwide student naming contest.
Launched in September 2011, Ebb and Flow periodically perform trajectory correction maneuversthat, over time, will lower their orbits to near-circular ones with an altitude of about 34 miles (55kilometers). During their science mission, the duo will answer longstanding questions about themoon and give scientists a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solarsystem formed.
The Daily Galaxy via nasa.gov