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Montana Fourth Graders Chose “Ebb” and “Flow” as Names for NASA Moon Probes


NASA's Ebb and Flow spacecraft orbit the Earth's moon. Image Credit/NASA

NASA’s twin GRAIL A and B spacecraft, which maneuvered into orbit around the moon on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day have new names — Ebb and Flow — thanks to some creative thinking by fourth graders at the Emily Dickinson Elementary Schoolin Bozeman, Montana.

Launched in September, Ebb and Flow are orbiting the moon’s poles at an altitude of just over 30 miles.

Scientists are counting on subtle fluxuations in the trajectories of the two spacecraft — due to small differences in the lunar gravity — to reveal new details about the moon’s core and the rest of the lunar sub-surface. The findings will also help experts unravel the long ago processes that created the solar system’s rocky inner planets.

Science operations are expected to begin in March.

Additionally, both Ebb and Flow are equipped with small cameras, called MoonKAMs, that will enable thousands of students to select sites on the lunar surface they would like the two spacecraft to photograph.

As the winners of a nationwide contest to re-name GRAIL A and B, the Emily Dickson fourth graders will be the first to have their sites photographed.


Fourth graders from Emily Dickenson Elementary School in Bozeman, Montana offer Ebb and Flow as the winning names for NASA's latest lunar spacecraft. Photo Credit/NASA


“These spacecraft represent not only great science, but great inspiration for our future,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division inWashington

“The 28 students of Nina DiMauro’s class at the Emily Dickinson Elementary Schoolhave really hit the nail on the head,” said Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ,  Mass.”We were really impressed that the students drew their inspiration by researching GRAIL and its goal of measuring gravity. Ebb and Flow truly capture the spirit and excitement of our mission.”

In all, nearly 900 classrooms with more than 11,000 students from 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia participated in the NASA sponsored naming contest.

Zuber and former NASA shuttle astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, selected the winning submissions. The contest attracted 890 proposals.

“With submissions from all over theUnited Statesand even some from abroad, there were a lot of great entries to review,” said Ride, a physicist.  “This contest generated a great deal of excitement in classrooms across  America, and along with it an opportunity to use that excitement to teach science.”

Dickinsonis one of nearly 2,000 schools registered for the MoonKAM program, which is led by Ride and her team at Sally Ride Science in collaboration with undergraduate students at the University of California in San Diego.



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