Lockheed Martin And NASA Command Two Spacecraft to De-Orbit and Impact Surface of Moon
NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission came to an end today as planned when the Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) flight operations team commanded the two spacecraft to de-orbit and impact the surface of the moon. Lockheed Martin built the twin robotic spacecraft and conducted flight operations for NASA's JPL since their launch on Sept. 10, 2011.
The first of the orbiters, Ebb, impacted a predetermined mountain near the lunar north pole at 3:28 p.m. MT, with its twin, Flow, hitting nearby 30 seconds later. Both were traveling at 3,760 mph (1.7 kilometers per second).
Following a successful primary and secondary science mission of mapping the gravity of the moon, the washing machine-sized spacecraft were nearly out of fuel. JPL and Lockheed Martin worked together to send both spacecraft to the surface in a controlled manner at a known location.
"During this extended science campaign, the orbits were reduced to astonishing low altitudes. In some instances, the spacecraft flew less than 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) above the lunar topography," said Stu Spath, GRAIL program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. "These low trajectories have provided