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NASA going to launch twin lunar orbiters built to map the gravity of Earth’s moon in unprecedented detail for this week. The twin GRAILl lunar probes are slated to blast off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on September 8. The mission has two instantaneous (one-second) launch windows on that date, one at 8:37 a.m. EDT and another at 9:16 a.m. EDT (1237 and 1316 GMT). The two unmanned spacecraft should reach the moon around New Year’s Day, at which point they’ll begin probing the moon’s composition from crust to core. GRAIL’s observations should help scientists better understand how the moon formed and evolved.
According to GRAIL principal investigator Maria Zuber of MIT in a statement the mission will reveal clues not only into the history of the moon and Earth, but will provide important data for future lunar exploration. Once launched, the twin probes will embark on a circuitous, 3 1/2-month trip to the moon via the sun-Earth Lagrange Point 1, a gravitationally stable spot between our planet and the sun. If the launch doesn’t go off on September 8, GRAIL will have plenty of other chances. The mission’s launch period lasts until October 19.
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