Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

Lunar Spacecraft Readied for Launch

Two NASA probes will chase each other in orbit around the moon to map its gravity.

Slideshow:

A set of twin spacecraft on a mission to map the moon’s gravity is preparing for launch. The mission, called Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), will create the most accurate maps of the lunar gravity field to date.

Slideshow:

Aerospace engineers from Lockheed Martin are conducting a fuel tank check on one of the GRAIL spacecraft.

Slideshow:

One of the GRAIL spacecraft is being inspected by technicians.

Slideshow:

GRAIL is comprised of two spacecraft, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B. They are being tested inside a thermal vacuum chamber, which subjects the probes to the atmospheric conditions they will experience in space.

Slideshow:

The two GRAIL spacecraft will fly in formation around the moon, 55 kilometers above the surface, and maintain a distance of 121 to 262 kilometers apart.

Slideshow:

The spacecraft will use radio links to communicate with each other and to a station on Earth. Here, technicians check the solar arrays on the spacecraft.

Slideshow:

The $496 million GRAIL mission will improve scientists’ knowledge of the moon’s gravity field by creating a map 100 to 1,000 times more accurate than anything created to date.

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.