Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lunar probes renamed Ebb and Flow

Revealing one letter at a time with chants and placards, a class of Bozeman, Montana fourth-graders (left) today introduced the new names for twin NASA spacecraft orbiting the moon: Ebb and Flow.

The class from the Emily Dickinson School won a contest to rename the spacecraft flying NASA's Gravity Recover and Interior Laboratory mission, or GRAIL.

Until now, the two small satellites had the bland alphabetical labels GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B.

Flying in formation, they'll map the moon's gravity field in the greatest detail yet to reveal new insights about the moon's interior and evolution.

In a press conference, Maria Zuber, the mission's principal investigator from MIT, said the student's suggestion simply captured the daily impact of the moon's gravity on Earth.

Over 11,000 students from 45 states submitted essays to participate in the conference.

Here's the winning essay submission: "We have been studying the Solar System and learning about the Sun, Planets, and the Moon. We think Ebb and Flow (or Flood) are good names for Grail-A and Grail-B because the Moon's gravity is the reason we have high tides and low tides. We thought it would be good to have names that represent something very important about the moon and what it causes to happen on Earth. Grail-A and Grail-B are on a journey just like the Moon is on a journey around Earth."

Ebb and Flow launched last Sept. 10 from Cape Canaveral on a Delta II Heavy rocket and entered lunar orbit on New Year's Day and New Year's Eve.

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