CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Monty Python would be proud; GRAIL is being prepared to fly to the Moon. Unfortunately this is not a chalice or cup, rather twin spacecraft that will fly together to unlock secrets of the Moon. The spacecraft have been attached to the final Delta II rocket that will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Forces Station’s Launch Complex 17. Currently, blastoff is scheduled to take place at 8:34 a.m. EDT.
The spacecraft were moved from the Astrotech facility, located in Titusville, Florida to the launch pad this week. The total trip is about 15 miles long and will be the last move of the twin craft before launch.“We are about to finish one chapter in the GRAIL story and open another,” said Maria Zuber, GRAIL’s principal investigator with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “Let me assure you this one is a real page-turner. GRAIL will rewrite the book on the formation of the moon and the beginning of us.”
GRAIL stands for Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory and will scan the Moon from its core all the way out to the lunar regolith. This mission will provide the most accurate gravitational map of the Moon yet to be gathered. It is also hoped that GRAIL will work as a template, demonstrating how other terrestrial planets formed.