NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission has uncovered the origin of massive invisible regions that make the moon’s gravity uneven, a phenomenon that affects the operations of lunar-orbiting spacecraft.
Because of GRAIL’s findings, spacecraft on missions to other celestial bodies can navigate with greater precision in the future.
GRAIL’s twin spacecraft studied the internal structure and composition of the moon in unprecedented detail for nine months. They pinpointed the locations of large, dense regions called mass concentrations, or mascons, which are characterized by strong gravitational pull. Mascons lurk beneath the lunar surface and cannot be seen by normal optical cameras.
This mission update is a great classroom extension to the NASA Explorer Schools featured lesson, Engineering Design Process: On The Moon. To have your students playing the role of engineers in designing lunar missions, access this set of engineering design challenges on the NES Virtual Campus.
To read more about GRAIL’s discovery, visit https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/grail/news/grail20130530.html.