After her second successful Space Shuttle mission was complete in 1984, Sally Ride’s contributions to science and education were hardly at an end. In fact, the contributions of the first female and youngest-to-date astronaut were only just beginning. Her last mission, before she succumbed to pancreatic cancer in July of this year was to head the MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) portion of GRAIL’s moon mission.
GRAIL is the first planetary NASA mission to have included a camera system setup solely for the purposes of education. Not only were the two GRAIL satellites named by middle school students, but camera exploration sites were also selected by the students. Now that the GRAIL mission has come to an end with the spiking of Ebb and Flow into the lunar surface, the impact crater has been named in honor of this great woman.
At almost exactly the predicted moment this afternoon, at 2:28.51 and 2:29.21 respectively, the two GRAIL orbiters spiked at a maximum velocity of 3,760mph into the south side of the 1.5 mile high mountain on the side of a crater named Goldschmidt. This marked the end of the data-gathering portion of the GRAIL mission, sent to explore the gravitational variances of the moon’s surface. The analysis of that data, scientists say, will take many more years to complete.