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NASA to launch new moon mission on Thursday

At the close of the mission in early spring, Grail-A and Grail-B will intentionally crash into the moon.

In its quest to learn more about the moon’s structure and determine what lies deep beneath the lunar surface, NASA is all set to launch a $496 million mission to the planet on Sept. 8.

The unmanned twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) probes to the moon are scheduled to blast off Thursday morning from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard Delta II Heavy rocket.

Maria Zuber, planetary scientist and Grail’s principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated, "Nearly every human who's every lived has looked up at the moon and admired it. The moon has played a really central role in the human imagination and the human psyche."

During its observational period, the main objective of the Grail mission is to map moon's gravity field so that the scientists can know what is its crust made of, and how was the planet formed and evolved.

Orbit close to moon
If the launch is on time and all goes well, the two spacecrafts will reach the lunar orbit in about three and half months.

Though the twin Grail will commence their journey together, the two will separate after an hour into flight and then travel independently to the moon.

Grail-A will enter the lunar orbit on New Year's Eve while Grail-B will reach on New Year's Day. The two probes about 130 miles apart will then circle the moon for nine months just 34 miles above its surface.

Mission's aim
During its observational period, the main objective of the Grail mission is to map moon's gravity field so that the scientists can know what is its crust made of, and how was the planet formed and evolved.

The twin spacecrafts supplied with five camera to allow students and public to participate in the Grail mission. These cameras will take pictures which will be posted on the internet.

"GRAIL will unlock lunar mysteries and help us understand how the moon, Earth and other rocky planets evolved as well," said Maria Zuber,

At the close of the mission in early spring, Grail-A and Grail-B will intentionally crash into the moon.