It sounds suspiciously like an Austin Powers movie, but no: the probes are not being slammed into our moon in ransom of 1. million. dollars. They’re being spiked into the moon at the end of a very successful mission to avoid leaving space junk floating around.
NASA announced on Friday that the last firing sequences were successfully completed that would propel the GRAIL gravity measurement satellites hurtling towards a sudden end. The Gravity Recovery and Internal Laboratory program was sent to the moon in order to study our largest satellite’s gravitational field in high detail, so that we might better understand the moon’s makeup and origins. The program is considered to have been a huge success, but fuel limits mean GRAIL will need to come to an end.
Even in the end, GRAIL’s contribution to NASA engineering is not quite finished, however. Because they know how much fuel the satellites were launched with and they’re certain that they’ve neared the end of that reserve, NASA plans to burn one long last firing to find out just how much is left in the tanks, exactly. This information will help engineers to understand just how accurate their measurements of fuel had been to this point to better prepare future missions.
For those that are interested, NASA will be providing minute-by-minute commentary on GRAIL’s final trajectory starting at 2pm Monday morning. Both probes are expected to crash at around 2:28pm. There will not be any video of the event, however, as the probes will be on the moon’s dark side on impact.