NASA's New Moon Mission - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

NASA's New Moon Mission

HUFFINGTONPOST.COM - The cruise to the moon took 3 1/2 months and covered 2 1/2 million miles – far longer than the direct three-day flight by Apollo astronauts.

Over the New Year's weekend, a pair of NASA spacecraft arrived back-to-back at their destination in the first mission devoted to studying lunar gravity.

Mission controllers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory did not toast champagne – there's a no alcohol policy on campus – but several belatedly heralded the new year by with noisemakers.

"We can start celebrating the new year now," project manager David Lehman said Sunday after attending a post-mission fete where cake and sparkling cider were served.

The tricky arrivals occurred 24 hours apart. The drama unfolded on New Year's Eve when Grail-A flew over the south pole, fired its engine and dropped into lunar orbit. Its twin Grail-B repeated the maneuvers on New Year's Day.

Cheers and applause filled mission control when each probe signaled it was healthy and circling the moon.

"Everything worked much better than I hoped," Lehman said.

The moon has long been an object of fascination. Galileo spotted mountains and craters when he peered at it through a telescope. Poets and songwriters looked to the moon as a muse.

Since the late 1950s, more than 100 missions launched by the United States, Soviet Union, Japan, China and India have targeted Earth's companion. NASA flew six Apollo missions that landed twelve men on the lunar surface and brought back more than 800 pounds of rock and soil samples. click here to read more

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