This morning, NASA successfully launched its twin Gravity Recovery and Internal Laboratory (GRAIL) probes to the Moon. Right now, the GRAIL robots are in the first minutes of a months-long trip into lunar orbit. Once arrived, the orbiters will spend 90 days analyzing the Moon before being de-orbited, from which they will crash to the lunar surface.
For NASA, this mission is yet another signal that there is a resurgence of interest in our nearest celestial neighbor. In 2009, NASA launched both its Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) probe, which crashed into the lunar surface in a search for water, which it found. Earlier that year, NASA launched its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, which was designed to scout out possible landing sites,. As a side note, the LRO offered undeniable proof that America went to the Moon with Apollo, too..
Now, there’s GRAIL.
In the mission, there are several major objectives NASA wants to accomplish and questions it wants to answer. Chief among them are the following: what is the Moon’s internal structure and what is it made from? Determine the size of the lunar core. Gain understanding of how the Moon’s surface came to be as it appears today. Understand the asymmetrical thermal properties of the Moon. answer the question of why the Moon’s gravity is not the same across its surface and lastly, determine the sub-surface structure of craters. .
Now, if all goes as planned, NASA will have answers to these questions by this time next year.