Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL): Mapping the Lunar Interior from Crust to Core
Author(s)Lehman, David H.; Hoffman, Tom L.; Asmar, Sami W.; Watkins, Michael M.; Smith, David Edmund; Zuber, Maria; ... Show more Show less
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The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) is a spacecraft-to-spacecraft tracking mission that was developed to map the structure of the lunar interior by producing a detailed map of the gravity field. The resulting model of the interior will be used to address outstanding questions regarding the Moon’s thermal evolution, and will be applicable more generally to the evolution of all terrestrial planets. Each GRAIL orbiter contains a Lunar Gravity Ranging System instrument that conducts dual-one-way ranging measurements to measure precisely the relative motion between them, which in turn are used to develop the lunar gravity field map. Each orbiter also carries an Education/Public Outreach payload, Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle-School Students (MoonKAM), in which middle school students target images of the Moon for subsequent classroom analysis. Subsequent to a successful launch on September 10, 2011, the twin GRAIL orbiters embarked on independent trajectories on a 3.5-month-long cruise to the Moon via the EL-1 Lagrange point. The spacecraft were inserted into polar orbits on December 31, 2011 and January 1, 2012. After a succession of 19 maneuvers the two orbiters settled into precision formation to begin science operations in March 1, 2012 with an average altitude of 55 km. The Primary Mission, which consisted of three 27.3-day mapping cycles, was successfully completed in June 2012. The extended mission will permit a second three-month mapping phase at an average altitude of 23 km. This paper provides an overview of the mission: science objectives and measurements, spacecraft and instruments, mission development and design, and data flow and data products.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Space Science Reviews
Zuber, Maria T., David E. Smith, David H. Lehman, Tom L. Hoffman, Sami W. Asmar, and Michael M. Watkins. “Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL): Mapping the Lunar Interior from Crust to Core.” Space Sci Rev 178, no. 1 (January 4, 2013): 3–24.
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