NASA's Twin Craft Arrive In Florida For Moon Mission

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May 23, 2011

George H. Diller
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown 
NASA Headquarters, Washington 

RELEASE: 20-11


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA's twin lunar probes have arrived in 
Florida to begin final preparations for a launch in late summer. The 
two Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory spacecraft (GRAIL) were 
shipped from Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, to the Astrotech 
payload processing facility in Titusville, Fla., Friday, May 20. 
NASA's dynamic duo will orbit the moon to determine the structure of 
the lunar interior from crust to core and to advance understanding of 
the thermal evolution of the moon.

"NASA's lunar twins have arrived at Cape Canaveral," said Maria Zuber, 
GRAIL's principal investigator, based at the Massachusetts Institute 
of Technology, in Cambridge. "We're only a few full moons away from a 
mission that will reveal clues not only into the history of the moon 
and Earth, but will provide important data for future lunar 

The GRAIL twins, known as GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B, were removed from their 
shipping containers Monday, May 23. Later this week, they will begin 
functional testing to verify their state of health after their ride 
on an Air Force transport jet from Colorado. Over the next four 
months at the Astrotech facility, the spacecraft will undergo final 
testing, fueling and packaging in the shroud that will protect them 
as the Delta II launch vehicle lifts them into space. The spacecraft 
will then be transported to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for 
installation atop the rocket that will carry them toward the moon.

GRAIL will be carried into space aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 
II Heavy rocket lifting off from Launch Complex-19 at the Cape 
Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch period opens Sept. 
8, 2011, and extends through Oct. 19. For a Sept. 8 liftoff, the 
launch window opens at 8:37 a.m. EDT (5:37 a.m. PDT) and remains open 
through 9:16 a.m. EDT (6:16 a.m. PDT). 

GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B will fly in tandem orbits around the moon for 
several months to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail. 
The mission will also answer longstanding questions about Earth's 
moon, and provide scientists a better understanding of how Earth and 
other rocky planets in the solar system formed. 

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the GRAIL 
mission. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, is 
home to the mission's principal investigator, Maria Zuber. The GRAIL 
mission is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall 
Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space 
Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. Launch management for the 
mission is the responsibility of NASA's Launch Services Program at 
the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. JPL is a division of the 
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

More information about GRAIL is available online at:  


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