After looking at the picture “Launch” selected for this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge, the first image that came to my mind was that of the launch of the twin spacecraft for the NASA GRAIL mission.  Geeky of me, I know, but I am absolutely fascinated with outer-space: the universe, constellations, planets, the various galaxies…the list goes on.  As I know I would never have made the cut for being an astronaut, and science was never my best subject in school, keeping up with NASA missions is the closest I will ever get to touching the heavens.

For those who have not heard of it, the purpose of the GRAIL – Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory – mission is to  learn about the structure of the moon – from the interior out – in order to better understand its thermal evolution.  This will be accomplished via the data gathered from the twin spacecraft currently orbiting around the surface of our moon.  With this knowledge, NASA will be able to apply what they have learned from the moon to better understand the evolution of other terrestrial planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.  As part of their Education and Public Outreach – E/PO – program, both spacecraft (GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B) were outfitted with several “MoonKam” cameras.  The purpose of these cameras is to take pictures and video feed of the moon, space, Earth, and the spacecraft themselves.  These images and videos will be available for participating middle schools to use in an effort to increase student knowledge and curiosity about the universe around them, and to foster a stronger desire for learning.  I only wish this was available when I was in middle school – my eighth grade science class would have easily been my favorite!

As I cannot post a picture of the GRAIL launch on my blog, readers can look at the spectacular photos of the launch and the spacecraft themselves by clicking this link.  GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B successfully achieved orbit around the moon over the New Year’s weekend, and will begin work in March of this year.  You can follow-up on the GRAIL mission by visiting either of the following two websites: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/grail/main/index.html or http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/grail/home.cfm.  A link to the mission project homepage can be found here.

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