January 2nd, 2012
10:30 AM ET

GRAIL spacecraft traveling around the moon

NASA's twin lunar orbiters helped scientists kick off 2012 as planned - the spacecraft are now circling the moon, and they will study our celestial neighbor in unprecedented ways.

The Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft are going to help scientists create a map of the gravitational field of the moon, giving insight into what's below the moon's surface. This information may help illuminate some fundamental questions about the moon's formation.

GRAIL-A reached the moon's orbit Saturday, NASA said. GRAIL-B attained lunar orbit Sunday at 5:43 p.m. EST. They have been traveling since their launch on September 10.

The GRAIL science mission will begin in March, when the spacecraft will be orbiting at an altitude about 34 miles from the moon's surface.

More about GRAIL from CNN

NASA's GRAIL mission page

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Filed under: Hardware in Orbit • In Space
soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. facebook fans

    I'm not certain the place you're getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend a while studying more or figuring out more. Thanks for wonderful information I was searching for this information for my mission.

    April 4, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  2. b4bigbang

    There's a late-breaking follow-up news article about this. I can't remember the web address but it said that GRAIL detected a gravitational anomaly on the Moon. It went on to say that further investigation revealed a black "monolith" which, after being detected, emitted a powerful electromagnetic "signal" which appeared to be beamed towards one of the moons of Jupiter.
    A manned expedition may follow....

    January 9, 2012 at 1:29 am |
  3. Eric

    I don’t think people realize NASA does more than put foot prints on the MOON. It’s easy to say almost every aspect of our lives is impacted by NASA. Farming, Auto Industry, Cell Phones, Air Lines, Rail, Trucking, Shipping, Weather Forecasts, the watch you wear, millions of jobs directly employed by NASA and all the people supporting NASA directly and through contracts with NASA are affected by the brain dead administration blindly cutting funding for NASA. All your Cell Calls, TV, Computer and GPS info will be going through Chinese Satellites soon. They don’t have rules that protect users like we do. So everything you do will be tracked and controlled by the Chinese. We will soon become a third world country. I think we already are a third world country.

    January 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Glenn

      So true

      January 2, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • omardeq

      NASA was said to have sent human, descended and successfully set a foot to the moon before 40 years ago, so why it is sensational news (GRAIL spacecraft traveling around the moon). Does not that mean the previous claim was conspiracy. Why the high-tech. does not allow us to set a foot on the moon again??

      January 3, 2012 at 4:27 am |
  4. User

    Well, cool. One of two things will happen. They'll decide whether to shoot down the orbiters or perhaps it's time to introduce themselves. I'll volunteer to be the liaison. It's going to be an exciting year.

    January 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  5. anthonykovic

    CLIMATE CHANGE is mentionned in the FIRST SENTENCE of this report. Climate change? Really? How do they know that?
    Two species of shark inter-copulating would be obvious reason. But crying CLIMATE CHANGE these days is very trendy, isn't it ?

    January 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Jim

      Sharks on the moon? If you're going to troll, at least troll the right article.

      January 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  6. palintwit

    Astronomers at the prestigous Sarah Palin Galactic Observatory / Bait Shop have determined that these probes are @nal in nature and were most likely launched from a trailer park somewhere in Wasilla, Alaska.

    January 2, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  7. petesake


    Luxury science? Reckless spending? During the financial crisis?
    Wow, you cannot really be serious – you must be trolling...

    You are right, lets reserve the money and hold it for the next bail out so that the bankers can buy their girlfriends more diamonds and gold – our money is better spent this way.

    Bankers will discover the next materials to build heart stents, the bankers will be able to develop life saving weather satellites.

    Or even better, lets use this money to help halliburton and the likes rebuild roads and bridges in the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq. We will get a much better return for our tax dollars there.

    Ignorance, does not even begin to cover it. but I guess I have fallen for your trolling....

    January 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  8. shut_up

    Iran just fired a missle? wow new technology from the mid-east? Maybe if they sent a rocket to the moon, then they would just be 50 years behind the USA. LOL harrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

    January 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • VonDoom

      Two things, actually three.

      1. The story about Iran firing this missile is front page news. Hint, look on the front page.
      2. Why does America need to stop anything with the space program just because Iran fires a missile? Even good old fashioned saber rattling has nothing in common with sending satellites up.
      3. Technically, this area of the world has been using some form of rocket since the start of recorded history, almost always for warefare. The modern rocket that we use has only been around for about three generations. We didn't develop this technology, we took it from other countries who were. It shouldn't be that big of a surprise that other countries are going to have them as well. Might as well freak out that Iran has boats.

      January 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
      • Just Me

        One name comes to mind... Dr. Robert H. Goddard.

        January 2, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  9. Stevareeno

    Why didn't he just say "La Grange Point?"

    January 2, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • jon

      Because not everyone knows what a "Lagrangian point" is.

      January 2, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
      • VonDoom

        Nothing like a good call on the testament to the failure of "no child left behind".

        January 2, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  10. bilL

    Are the probes visible with a 12" scope? Cant find the answer anywhere.

    January 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • VonDoom

      You could try but I doubt it. These things would be so small and barely visible that one may catch them when sunlight bounces off them. The light bouncing off the moon would probably drown them out and you would probably need perfect weather. It was only within the past year that a telescope in orbit was able to view and take pictures of one of the lunar landing areas. It's not seeing something like these satellites that's hard, it's pulling up the detail with everything else around and behind it.

      January 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  11. Jim

    Studying the moon's gravitational fields – isn't that how "2001 – Space Odyssey" started?

    January 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Rick

      Nope. It started with a bunch of pre-humans nearly starving to death until they ran into the monolith which showed them how to use bones from dead animals to fight off other pre-humans (who occupied "their" water pool) and ultimately gave them the power to kill for food.

      January 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
      • Punjab83


        January 2, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Heywood Floyd

      If anomalous magnetic readings are found in the Tycho crater, do you think it should be referred to as Tycho Magnetic Anomaly or perhaps TMA-1?

      January 2, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  12. Rick

    3 months to reach the moon, while Apollo rockets took approximately three days to reach the moon? Can someone explain this?

    January 2, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Fr. Robert Ballecer, SJ

      When you have 3 men cooped up in a spacecraft with limited resources, you are on much more of a time budget than if you are launching probes. - Look at the rockets that were used to launch GRAIL and compare then to the Saturn 5 used to launch Apollo.

      January 2, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • DirtyBob

      The longer travel time was to obtain a better long duration orbit

      January 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • svann

      I read in another article they were maneuvering to result in synchronized orbit.

      January 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  13. Raul

    i wish i could land on uranus! and say hi to the clingons . who lives on a gas giant.. .. omg i just though of somethign what if we make a giant beanoo space ship and crash it into a gas giant?

    January 2, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Phil

      Taking the fun out of your very old joke. Put the emphasis on the first syllable “ur” and then say the second part “unus”.

      Then it sounds like urin-us...which is how is properly pronounced.

      January 2, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  14. Bob

    This is luxury science and reckless spending at a time when we are in financial crisis. We need to have a huge layoff and program realignment at NASA.

    January 2, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Chris

      The fact that NASA is performing this experiment has ZERO impact or effect of the financial crisis. The fact that the government keeps these programs alive during such hard financial times is one of the ONLY positive decisions this country has made over the last decade.

      January 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • ficheye

      It is sad, yet predictable, that someone would say something like this. Curiosity should never die just because some idiots in the United States caused a global financial collapse. Go outside at night and look up.

      January 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Billy T

      Glad to see the above people have some sense. The fact that our financial crisis is impeding your ability to think rationally is predictable in this country. If you kill NASA then you kill those jobs as well, which alone refutes your comment. Perhaps you should be reading other sources of news and doing some original thinking, instead of regurgitating what the television tell you.

      January 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Thom

      Really, that's what you believe because the facts of what you said are laughing in your face. You might want to do some basic research before you just go willy nilly on spewing rhetoric your news media channel tells you to think.

      January 2, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Your logic has a little problem in MHO...simple put it comes down to this..If you do not keep engineers, and scientist, machinist, tech busy and working, they will lose their edge, and when you need a good engineer, or scientist, or machinist, tech, you will have none..

      January 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Aaron

      NASA's budget has already seen huge slashes over the last 2 decades going from 1% of the federal budget to 0.6%. Eliminating this would not magically solve budget crisis, in fact, the money made off patents owned by NASA pays their agency budget every year.

      January 2, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Patriarchae

      Reckless spending? You do realize that NASA is working on a shoestring budget, right? If NASA is reckless spending, then buying a 25 cent gumball must be putting my family at risk for bankruptcy. The REAL reckless spending is happening elsewhere in the government, and as usual people like you, not to mention anyone with any power, overlooks it and shifts the blame to something else. People like you are the reason we are in the financial mess we are. People like you are the reason we will never fully get out of it. People like you are a danger to humanity and our future. No science is "luxury science," and I can't even fathom how someone could be so backwards and medieval as to think that.

      January 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • MikeB

      Just goes to show why you never worked for them. Insufficient mental capacity. Just keep practicing "would you like fries with that" and you should do fine in your chosen career field.

      January 2, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • SuffolkGuy

      I suppose you would oppose even more strongly the larger amounts spent to teach kids about the moon, the planets, the sun and stars, comets, asteroids, meteoers, the galaxies etc. True? If it is not worth knowing about for real, then why is it subject matter in schools

      January 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  15. Moon Facts

    The moon has a hollow core. Bottomless crators are the access points. That's where all the alien ships are coming from.

    January 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  16. Fraud Detective


    January 2, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  17. dreamer96

    Looking to see if the core is shaped like a football, no an egg heavy on one side, closest to the earth, maybe...once the moon was molten and the earth pulled on it just like today, and as it cooled the heavy metals harden in the shape of an egg with most closest to the earth....Or they are looking for the hidden Alien moon base on the far side of the moon..

    Someday maybe we will have a moon base and one over a mineral site would make the most sense...so we could use those minerals to build housing, machines, and rockets, and spacecraft...also they are looking for ice...

    January 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Rodger

      If there is an alien site on the moon then we are the aliens!

      January 2, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Chris

      Watch the movie Lunopolis. Very entertaining.

      January 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • dreamer96


      Yeah I thought more than once , from a scifi point of view, those UFO's are not from other planets, but from the future, a site on the moon as an escape from an earthly disaster in the distance past.. ...or parallel dimensions...look up string, or rubber band theory, and the idea of several dimensions right here around us, all the time that we are unaware of..

      January 2, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  18. Tr1Xen

    Pretty cool!

    January 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  19. PushtaPansyInDaBushesAndMonkeyHereHerYellNancyBoy


    January 2, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  20. yankeeshogun

    Oh goody maybe we can land on the moon some day. Of course maybe we did that already, but the young folks always like to reinvent the wheel.

    January 2, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Fr. Robert Ballecer, SJ

      We landed on the moon, but not much else. Apollo was a miracle of modern science and technology... the astronauts are heros... but Apollo was never about studying the moon, it was about getting there and back.

      The "young people" are continuing the mission where the "old people" left off... using the new miracles of science and technology to figure out where the moon came from, what resources are located on it, and maybe even paving the way for humans to leave man the moon.

      I'd say that's pretty worthwhile.

      January 2, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  21. madmoon

    Can they take a picture of the flag and all the moon buggies we left up there? Or did they forget where they went like they lost the original videos?

    January 2, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Brave sir robin

      They're gravity probes, probably no major cameras. Check out the Lunar reconnaissance orbiter, which has already sent back detailed pictures of all the Apollo sites, as well as the Russian rovers.

      January 2, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Rodger

      Now would the flag be frozen stiff, burnt to a cinder or flapping gayly in the wind?

      January 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
      • jimbo0117

        Um, flapping gayly in the wind?

        You do realize that there is no atmosphere on the moon, right?

        January 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  22. Sherman

    Guys look how excited you are.. this is good stuff. Explore, poke holes in other people's planets. literally.

    January 2, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Ronald

      Other people's planet? People only live on Earth ..

      January 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
      • mike

        Well, there is certainly no people native to the moon. However, to make a blanket statement that 'people only live on Earth is pretty ignorant. we have absolutely no idea what's out there.

        January 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  23. James

    Maybe they can put to rest all of the thoughts that we never landed on the moon. Send us some pictures while you are doing all of this research. Good luck with the mission.

    January 2, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  24. GetReal

    Yes very different then earth, see all the potholes, meteor strikes. No plate tectonics, all kinds of cool stuff close to the surface.

    January 2, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  25. Matthew

    @Corey If we did any type of resource gathering on the moon, it would likely be for helium-3. While that is rare on Earth (only really produced by nuclear blasts, so hopefully it stays rare), it is thought to be in large quanities on the moon. It also has extrordinary energy production potential.

    January 2, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • RS


      Oh My God. Am I the only one who realizes this guy plays WAY too much Mass Effect 3? This is real-life dude. Get out of your video game fantasies.

      January 2, 2012 at 11:35 am |
      • The Decider

        Two points.
        1. The moon actually does have decent deposits of Helium 3. Its been deposited by the solar winds over billions of years.

        2. Mass Effect 3 has yet to come out. I don't see how this gentleman would be playing it yet.

        So in all you were wrong on both accounts.

        January 2, 2012 at 11:47 am |
      • Mike

        @RS – Yes, hopefully you are the only one that thinks that. Hopefully everyone else will have enough common sense to Google Helium-3 before they post something and show just how ignorant they are.

        January 2, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
      • Deej

        Boy was this little thread entertaining. 🙂 "Am I the only one who realizes this person typed his message on a COMPUTER? I'd say he's seen War Games too many times!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (Add more exclamation marks as needed.)

        January 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  26. james

    it cheese!

    January 2, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  27. Ray

    amazing technological advancement

    January 2, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  28. John

    Its a shame the majority of "strange and unusual" findings will never be reported to the public. Last time we "examined" the moon it was miniscule effort. This is like wanting to explore the ocen. First time we took a swim, now were draining the water. I have a strong feeling were in for some surprises that will explain what a large majority of astronauts explained seeing on the moon. Here we go.

    January 2, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  29. Corey

    The moon is formed from the same kind of materials that make up the Earth. There is more than just lunar dirt there. Gold, silver, other valuable resources can be found on the moon. We should have been mining it and living off it decades ago

    January 2, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Scott

      Thats not true at all. Some records have shown that the moon is actually much older than the earth, and cannot possibly have formed from the earth. The moon is made of different materials, and we can't exactly mine it, this isn't Armageddon...

      January 2, 2012 at 11:11 am |
      • jimbo0117

        Dude you need to stop getting all of you "facts" from Faux News. Try reading a couple of papers or books on this from real scientists.

        January 2, 2012 at 12:49 pm |


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