Photo: GRAIL A and B (NASA)
Twin satellites Ebb and Flow crashed into a mountain near the Moon’s north pole ending a one-year mission during which they had taken images that will allow scientists to better understand the internal lunar structure, NASA announced Tuesday.
Last Friday, the two satellites received the order to begin their orbital descent, a move that ensured they would both ultimately hit the lunar surface.
In a precision maneuver, 50 minutes before impact the pair of spacecraft fired their engines until they had burned up all their remaining fuel.
The impact site, on the southern face of a mountain near the crater Goldschmidt, was dubbed Sally Ride, a tribute to the astronaut who was the first U.S. woman to go into space and who died last July at age 61 from cancer.
“We’re proud to be able to honor the contributions of Sally Ride by naming this corner of the Moon after her,” Maria Zuber, the MIT scientist in charge of the project, emphasized in a communique.
After years of preparation, a Delta II rocket was launched in September 2011 carrying the two satellites - the GRAIL A, which U.S. students dubbed Ebb, and the GRAIL B, which they named Flow - to the Moon.
The pair of space probes took more than 115,000 photos of the lunar surface that NASA experts will now begin analyzing.