Planets and Moons  ID: 11186

Final Orbit

On December 17, 2012, two NASA spacecraft slammed into a ridge near the moon's north pole. The collisions marked the planned end to NASA's GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) mission. Flying in formation, the twin, washing machine-sized probes, named Ebb and Flow, spent 351 days in lunar orbit mapping the moon's gravitational field. The maps revealed features of the lunar surface and interior in incredible detail, providing scientists with new information about the moon's craggy topography and lumpy crust. Using these maps, researchers will be able to peer back at the moon's early history and better understand its origin and development, along with that of Earth and the other rocky bodies in the solar system. The visualization shows the two spacecraft's final three orbits and their mission-ending crash.

Related Stories

Story Credits

Ernie Wright (USRA)

Video Editor:
Kayvon Sharghi (USRA)

Lead Scientists:
Maria Zuber (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Erwan M. Mazarico (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Lead Writer:
Alex Kasprak (USRA)

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
Cover image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT
Moon flyover video courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

Short URL to share this page:

SVS >> App
NASA Science >> Planets and Moons