Get ready. This is a different type of a mission to the moon. The countdown has started. Forty two days left.
The lift off will be on September 8,2011 from Nasa's Space Launch Complex 17B and the rocket will be the powerful Delta-2.
The primary role of this unique mission is to map the lunar gravity and use that data to increase our understanding of the moon's interior and its thermal history.
Why is it an unique mission? For two reasons folks.
In what is the first of its kind, two 200 kg spacecraft--designated as Grail A and Grail B--will be launched simultaneously and will fly in the same orbit around the moon. Grail A is expected to follow Grail B. Grail stands for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory. This is the first time in the history of moon exploration that two spacecraft are being launched together.
According to Nasa: ``Getting the two spacecraft where they need to be, when need to be, requires extremely challenging set of manouvres never before carried out in solar system exploration.''
Each lunar spacecraft has two payloads---the lunar gravity ranging system and MoonKam, an acronym for Moon Knowledge Acquired By Middle School Students.
Another first is the MoonKam, something pretty innovative which is sure to excite students about space exploration and the moon in particular. MoonKam will allow middle level students in the US to send in requests to Nasa for cameras on board both the spacecraft to take photos of specific areas of the lunar surface.
The images will be posted on the internet and students can use them for their studies. The person behind the MoonKam project is none other than America's first woman in space, Sally Ride.
After launch on September 8, 2011, the spacecrafts will enter the moon's orbit in January 2012. The science phase of the mission will be activated between March and May 2012. This is the time when MoonKam will become operational.
The idea of having MoonKam is an excellent idea and ``Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM)'' feels that Isro too should think of doing something similar during India's second mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-2, tentatively slated for lift off in 2013.
God speed Grail