The mysteries of the moon will have to wait at least one day to get unlocked.
NASA has announced a delay of the launch of its twin GRAIL spacecrafts. According to NASA, the launch of GRAIL, which stands for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, was thwarted by upper level winds in the unacceptable range.
The launch will now take place tomorrow on Sept. 9. It will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 17B aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II heavy rocket. The first GRAIL spacecraft will launch at 8:33:25 a.m. while the next one will go at 9:12:31 a.m. EDT.
NASA estimates they should reach the moon by approximately New Year's Eve/New Year's Day. Once the GRAIL spacecrafts reach orbit, they will separate from the rocket one vehicle at a time.
According to Reid, launching two spacecrafts increases the work for a single mission. Both spacecrafts, he said, have to go through environmental checks. Both spacecrafts, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B, will have their own dedicated teams. Both spacecrafts will have to be individually powered up.
We will definitely wait to celebrate until both spacecraft are safe and are on their translunar cruise to the moon, Bruce Reid, the GRAIL mission manager for NASA's Launch Services Program.
The GRAIL twin spacecrafts, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B, will orbit above the moon's surface on a mission to map its gravity. This could lead to many moon related questions being answered.
Trying to understand how the moon formed, and how it evolved over its history, is one of the things we're trying to address with the GRAIL mission. But also, (we're) trying to understand how the moon is an example of how terrestrial planets in general have formed, Maria Zuber, principal investigator for GRAIL from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a statement.
The GRAIL mission will not only reveal information about the moon's thermal history, but how the inner, rocky planets formed as well. Mostly, however, it will be about the moon. As Zuber says, it will explore the moon from crust to core.
Both spacecrafts will carry a set of cameras to the moon as part of MoonKam, a project headed by former astronaut Sally Ride. The cameras will offer middle-school students the chance to request photography of lunar targets for classroom study. This will mark the first time a NASA planetary mission has carried instruments expressly for an education and public outreach project.