How do terrestrial bodies—earth and other rocky planets or moons—come to be? Scientists can ge clues on earth, but the weathering of the surface and geologic processes have changed the planet immensely. The moon’s surface, on the other hand, preserves the record of nearly the entirety of 4.5 billion years of solar system history. It’s also the most accessible and best-studied terrestrial body other than earth.
The GRAIL mission seeks to gain more information on planet formation by studying the moon with spacecraft. The February von Kármán Lecture, “From Crust to Core, GRAIL Reveals the Lunar Interior,” explains the technology of the mission and the science that the team hopes to do. Dr. Sami Asmar, GRAIL Deputy Project Scientist at JPL, is the presenter.
GRAIL is an acronymn for Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory, a collaboration of NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The mission involves using twin spacecraft in tandem orbits around the moon for three months to measure its gravity field and thus gain a better understanding of its interior structure and thermal evolution.
The GRAIL spacecraft will be launched side-by-side on a single Delta II vehicle during a 26-day launch period that opens on Sept. 8, 2011. The mission was designed to avoid lunar eclipses on Dec. 10, 2011 and June 4, 2012, which would interfere .
This tandem technique was pioneered with the GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) mission that precisely measured earth’s gravity to enable a better understanding of ocean surface currents and ocean heat transport, and to measure and monitor ice sheets.
GRAIL mission scientists say that orbital observations and samples of lunar surface rocks returned to earth confirm that the moon preserves geological history more clearly than any other body. GRAIL will provide material for more advanced studies of the moon that may answer questions about the origin of the maria (dark regions of considerable extent on the surface of the moon)and the asymmetry in the thickness of the crust. This information can be extended beyond the moon to help us further understand the history and evolution of the other terrestrial planets in our solar system.
von Kármán Lecture Series (free)
“From Crust to Core, GRAIL Reveals the Lunar Interior”
Speaker: Dr. Sami Asmar, GRAIL Deputy Project Scientist, JPL
Mike Watkins, GRAIL Project Scientist, JPL (not yet confirmed)
Thursday, Feb. 17, 7 p.m.
The von Kármán Auditorium at JPL
4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena
Friday, Feb 18, 7 p.m.
The Vosloh Forum at Pasadena City College
1570 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
Thursday at 7 p.m. PST, click here (RealPlayer required)
Download the free RealPlayer 8 Basic
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