NASA is reporting that the second GRAIL spacecraft has executed its planned main engine burn and has now joined its companion craft in lunar orbit. Working together, NASA’s two Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) probes will allow researchers to utilize new ways of studying the moon.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said:
"NASA greets the new year with a new mission of exploration," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "The twin GRAIL spacecraft will vastly expand our knowledge of our moon and the evolution of our own planet. We begin this year reminding people around the world that NASA does big, bold things in order to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown."
GRAIL-B achieved lunar orbit at 2:43 p.m. PST (5:43 p.m. EST) today. GRAIL-A successfully completed its burn yesterday at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST). The insertion maneuvers placed the spacecraft into a near-polar, elliptical orbit with an orbital period of approximately 11.5 hours. Over the coming weeks, the GRAIL team will execute a series of burns with each spacecraft to reduce their orbital period to just under two hours. At the start of the science phase in March 2012, the two GRAILs will be in a near-polar, near-circular orbit with an altitude of about 34 miles (55 kilometers).
According to information on the NASA website:
For more information about GRAIL visit: http://www.nasa.gov/grail
Information about MoonKAM is available online at: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/grail/education.cfm