NASA moon-mapping mission to come to a crashing end
near the moon's north pole, a site selected to avoid the chance of hitting any of the Apollo or other lunar relics. The impacts, which are not expected to be visible from
Earth, will take place about 20 seconds apart at 5:28 p.m. EST (2228 GMT) on Monday.
“They're going to be completely blown apart," GRAIL project manager David Lehman, with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told reporters on a conference call. Almost out of fuel and currently flying just 7 miles (11 km) above the lunar surface, the probes will make a final steering maneuver on Friday and shut down their science instruments in preparation for Monday's crash.
The two spacecraft, each about the size of a small washing machine, have been flying in close formation around the moon for nearly a year to map the lunar gravity.
Scientists precisely measure the distance between the two, a figure that slightly changes as they fly over denser regions of the moon. The gravitational pull of the additional mass causes first the leading probe and then the following one to speed up, altering the gap between them. Gravity maps from the first part of the mission, collected between March and May 2012
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