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NASA delays GRAIL mission to the moon due to high winds

September 8, 2011 |  8:59 am

NASA_mission_to_the_moon 
High winds Thursday morning at Cape Canaveral, Fla., forced NASA to temporarily scrub the launch of its GRAIL mission to the moon. NASA said the next two launch opportunities will be on Friday morning.

The two mirror-opposite spacecraft that comprise the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission are scheduled to arrive at the moon on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day -- a schedule that is not expected to change even if there are further weather delays. GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B will spend three months making 12 polar orbits of the moon each day.

Scientists predict the mission will provide a comprehensive map of the moon's gravitational field, allowing them to better calculate the composition of its crust, mantle and core and adding to their understanding of the evolution of the rocky planets.

The mission will also mark the first use of a technique known as "precision formation flying" beyond Earth's orbit. Some scientists say the precision flying technology, using multiple, coordinated spacecraft to study the same point in space in great detail, will provide many advances in space exploration in coming years.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge is managing the $496-million GRAIL mission.

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-- Scott Gold

Photo: NASA images show the various stages of pre-launch preparations of NASA's twin GRAIL spacecraft at Space Launch Complex 17B on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Credit: Reuters / NASA /JPL-Caltech

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