Montana 4th Graders Score Amazing Lunar Photos
While NASA’s twin groundbreaking GRAIL mission spacecraft probe the mysteries of the moon’s interior, fourth graders at the Emily Dickenson Elementary School of Bozeman, Mont., have carried out some complementary lunar unraveling of their own.
Following last September’s launch, the budding student astronomers finished first in a NASA contest to rename the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) A and B spacecraft. The twin probes maneuvered into orbit around the moon over the New Year’s weekend, their mission to map subtle differences in the lunar gravity.
The measurements promise to disclose new information about the moon’s core and the region below the rugged crust. NASA hopes the mission’s student participation will encourage more of the youngsters to excel in math and the sciences.
Their winning entries of “Ebb” and “Flow” as the new names for GRAIL A and B earned the Emily Dickenson students the opportunity to select the first target snapped by the small MoonKAM imagers carried by the moon probes. In all, 900 classrooms from schools in 45 states competed.
The Emily Dickenson students selected the moon’s far side for their photo.
And their choice produced a stark image of lunar peaks, perpetually hidden from those who gaze at the moon from the Earth. The imagery was made even more dramatic because it captured the Earth hanging in the distance, just over the lunar horizon.
More than 60 student requested images were taken by the Ebb spacecraft’s MoonKam Mar. 15 to 17. The photos were transmitted back to Earth on Mar. 20.
“Through MoonKAM, we have an opportunity to reach out to the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said Maria Zuber, of MIT, the Grail mission principal investigator. “It is great to see things off to such a positive start.”
There will be more to come.
The MoonKAM experiment is led by Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space. Her team at Sally Ride Science collaborates with undergrad students at the Universityof California in San Diego to aim the cameras and obtain the pictures.
So far, more than 2,700 schools from 52 countries lined up to use the MoonKAM imagers.
“What might seem like just a cool activity for these kids may very well have a profound impact on their futures,” noted Ride, a physicist. “The students really are excited about MoonKAM, and that translates into an excitement about science and engineering.”
Launched in September 2011, Ebb and Flow began their formal 84 day science mission on March 6.