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Twin Probes Crash Into the Moon

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the as-promised dept.

Moon 79

SchrodingerZ writes "After their yearlong mission to map the Moon's gravitational field, twin probes Ebb and Flow crashed into the lunar surface, ending the GRAIL mission. The crashes were controlled events, each impacting 30 seconds apart from each other. The twin spacecraft were running low on maneuvering fuel and NASA, not wanting the craft to fall on historical sites such as the Apollo landing sites, redirected their flight patterns to impart the far (dark) side of the moon. Their impact sites were named after Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. 'During the news conference last week, Maria T. Zuber, the principal investigator, said the probes would be crashing into a "non-sunlit" part of the surface.' When the site becomes sunlit again in several weeks, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will attempt to take pictures of the craters the probes undoubtedly made in the lunar soil."

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Lunar Warming (3, Funny)

craigminah (1885846) | about 2 years ago | (#42325201)

I'm sure the EPA or Al Gore is going to file a claim against NASA for lunar warming or polluting the surface of the moon.

Re:Lunar Warming (2)

Lord Lode (1290856) | about 2 years ago | (#42325295)

And what are they gonna say if they crashed on the house of some of the men living on the dark side of the moon?

Re:Lunar Warming (3, Funny)

telchine (719345) | about 2 years ago | (#42325441)

And what are they gonna say if they crashed on the house of some of the men living on the dark side of the moon?

There are no men living on the moon. FACT!

Lunar Amazons! (1)

Dareth (47614) | about 2 years ago | (#42326515)

Yes, but the Lunar Amazonian women may be really pissed!

Re:Lunar Warming (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42327993)

There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it's all dark.

Re:Lunar Warming (4, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42325593)

There is no dark side of the moon. As a matter of fact, it's all dark. Well, that's what Floyd told me anyway.

Re:Lunar Warming (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about 2 years ago | (#42325777)

Floyd is full of shit. Seems quite bright in the infrared spectrum.

Re:Lunar Warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42326129)

That wasn't Floyd, that was a quote from Einstien on a Pink Floyd album.. I'm pulling your nerd card!

Re:Lunar Warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42329419)

Floyd are musicians, not astronomers or selenologists.

Re:Lunar Warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42329949)

Yeah, Queen [wikipedia.org] are astronomer [wikipedia.org] s.

Re:Lunar Warming (1, Interesting)

scsirob (246572) | about 2 years ago | (#42326021)

How would you feel if some alien species arrives at our galaxy and decides to throw their used-up dilithium on your porch.
What if the moon turns out to be made of cheese after all, and the probes punch a hole in the protective crust. The moon might deflate and we end up covered in cheese. Yuck!

Sillyness besides, I find it quite amazing that the USA decides they can abuse the moon as their public junk yard and just dump their garbage there.

Re:Lunar Warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42327607)

They're not "using it as their public junk yard". Every free-floating object in space must orbit somewhere, and hence poses a risk to current or future spacecraft. Smashing it into something big or burning it up in an atmosphere is the best way to get rid of that risk and getting some scientific data from the resulting ploom is a secondary goal. If sufficient fuel is not available, craft are normally placed into a less frequently used orbit where they (statistically) won't bother anyone for a few centuries at least.

This is actually what is considered good practice by conscientious scientists.

Re:Lunar Warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42327511)

Don't discount Al's lunar knowledge. He has ridden the mighty Moon Worm.

Re:Lunar Warming (1)

Scarletdown (886459) | about 2 years ago | (#42333003)

Mr. Gore, would you have preferred the alternative? If so, we can slam the next probe into Uranus.

Re:Lunar Warming (1)

craigminah (1885846) | about 2 years ago | (#42335433)

You mean Hisanus?

Far (dark) side? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42325233)

The moon doesn't have a permanent dark side any more than the earth does!!!! The far side is in fact the mainly bright side during a new moon.

Re:Far (dark) side? (4, Informative)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about 2 years ago | (#42325311)

You are correct. From the NY Times linked article: "In my article last week about the impending demise of Ebb and Flow, I noted, "Unfortunately, since the action will happen on the dark side of the Moon, there will be nothing for earthlings to see." About a gazillion people, including Robert Kirshner, a Harvard astronomy professor, wrote in to ask, "Didn't you mean to write 'far side' and not 'dark side'?" The more annoyed wrote: "Dark Side of the Moon??? Come on now. You know that is not correct! You completely blew a potential teaching moment, to educate the public that the **FAR** side of the Moon is **NOT** dark! Instead you perpetuated yet another scientific misconception. No wonder we are facing a crisis in science literacy in the U.S. The New York Times can and should do better!" Except I really meant, "dark side" -the side of the Moon facing away from the Sun. What was confusing to many was a remembered tidbit about the Moon, that there is always one face towards Earth, and the other always out of view, and they presumed that the crashes will be on the far side and therefore blocked from view. If that were the case, "far side" would be correct.

A smaller number of readers wondered why the spacecraft will crash when the maneuvering fuel runs out. The Moon has no atmosphere and therefore there is no friction to slow them down. But the Moon's gravity is uneven and the orbit is not perfectly circular. Without periodic course adjustments, it will become more chaotic and elliptical, and the ellipse will intersect with the surface of the Moon -i.e., crash."

Re:Far (dark) side? (1)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#42325433)

Notify Pink Floyd.

The Grey Lady is senile (0, Flamebait)

drainbramage (588291) | about 2 years ago | (#42325665)

To see truth or accuracy in the NYT requires equal faith in Kris Kringle.
Because some infotainment publisher pushes stories you want to believe it doesn't make them accurate.

Re:The Grey Lady is senile (2)

tverbeek (457094) | about 2 years ago | (#42325991)

If you RTFA, you'll see that the NYT is correct. The submitter screwed it up.

Re:Far (dark) side? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42325671)

While it does require clarification for a layperson that the impact is on the far side of the moon, that side can be considered "dark" if you are talking in terms of communication... a "dark" area in regards to communication could happen anywhere, including those bathed in light. Granted, due to confusion (like the current subject matter), the use of "dark" is probably not the best choice of words.

Re:Far (dark) side? (0)

tverbeek (457094) | about 2 years ago | (#42326003)

RTFA. It was not on the far side.

Re:Far (dark) side? (-1, Flamebait)

tverbeek (457094) | about 2 years ago | (#42327371)

Fuck you, mod. Correcting some idiot who can't read is not "flamebait". (This is.)

no shit dumbass (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42325337)

Even the summary says "would be crashing into a 'non-sunlit' part of the surface" (not "side") followed immediately by "When the site becomes sunlit again in several weeks...".

Damn illiterates.

Dark != Far (5, Informative)

tverbeek (457094) | about 2 years ago | (#42325251)

"redirected their flight patterns to [impact] the far (dark) side of the moon."

Wrong. As TFA takes pains to explain, the "dark side of the Moon" and the "far side of the Moon" are not the same thing.
An the impacts were on the near side of the Moon, while it is dark.

Re:Dark != Far (1)

Speare (84249) | about 2 years ago | (#42325411)

Was just going to comment on this.

The moon has days and nights, just like the Earth. Also, the rotation of the moon just about exactly matches the revolution around the Earth, so we constantly see the same "side" of the moon's surface.

I think the inaccurate term "dark side of the moon" to refer to the side we don't see originally came from the idea of radio darkness (no contact possible directly from Earth), but it's a persistent phrase even after people know the difference.

Re:Dark != Far (3, Interesting)

stridebird (594984) | about 2 years ago | (#42325473)

...the rotation of the moon just about exactly matches the revolution around the Earth

I think we can say exactly, as it's not a coincidence that the rotations align like that, it's a stable configuration of two bodies in orbit

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_locking [wikipedia.org]

Re:Dark != Far (3, Insightful)

Soft (266615) | about 2 years ago | (#42325773)

...the rotation of the moon just about exactly matches the revolution around the Earth

I think we can say exactly, as it's not a coincidence that the rotations align like that, it's a stable configuration of two bodies in orbit

Yes but there's still libration [wikipedia.org] . Although the Moon's rotation and revolution periods are indeed exactly the same, its orbital speed changes slightly over each orbit. So "just about exactly" is justified too.

Re:Dark != Far (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42325445)

I don't troll these days, I just grumble at the poor effort of modern trolls. They forget that good trolling is in two parts: the bait and the switch.
You need to get people believing you before you bring out the troll. And it needs to be so subtle they don't even notice that you changed tack.
The easiest method is to come up with a thesis that starts with their premises and comes to a very different conclusion (or vice versa). Whatever you do, make sure you introduce the acceptable point (the bait) before pulling the switch. These are the examples I posted on this topic before:
I think we need affirmative action laws because how else will women be able to compete?
We need to be careful with the words we use because minorities are overly sensitive.
The fact that women make less money than men is terrible because dresses and shoes are so expensive.
Women don't need men in their lives to be happy and successful. Children can fill that role too.
Those are all "agree with conclusion, disagree with premise". I can't come up with good examples of the reverse right now.
Obviously these aren't the full troll posts you would make, but I expect you can see how they would go down. You get people responding to you and then you switch it up in subsequent posts (or in nuances hidden in a single post). Ideally half the people responding would recognise the switch and start attacking you while the other half would fall prey to the sunken cost fallacy and try to defend you. Then they fight amongst themselves and you do whatever 12-year-olds do these days.
Like I said, I haven't trolled in a long time. I just wish that modern trolls would have that element of artistry. Then you have something to appreciate when you're done frothing at the mouth.

Re:Dark != Far (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42330945)

Fascinating. I'll need this expressed in terms of a hosts file.

Re:Dark != Far (1)

Gliese 581 (2793615) | about 2 years ago | (#42325933)

... the impacts were on the near side of the Moon ...

The summary is wrong then. Copy-pasta of the summary at time of posting:

The twin spacecraft were running low on maneuvering fuel and NASA, not wanting the crafts to fall on historical sites such as the Apollo landing sites, redirected their flight patterns to impart the far (dark) side of the moon.

Apparenlty, the near side is the darker side because of the lunar maria [wikipedia.org] , which

are less reflective than the "highlands" as a result of their iron-rich compositions, and hence appear dark to the naked eye. The maria cover about 16 percent of the lunar surface, mostly on the near-side visible from Earth.

Re:Dark != Far (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42350291)

That's the same mistake they make in the 3rd transformers movie. The title doesn't actually say "dark side" so that just gets a pass, but at one point when discussing where the ancient transformers ship crashed one of them did say it was the dark side.

The best part of science (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42325259)

Create enormous collisions.

Watch the video.

Re:The best part of science (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 2 years ago | (#42325387)

As long as it's on the Moon...

Remember this in the future (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about 2 years ago | (#42325335)

No matter how it ends, Earth shoot first.

Re:Remember this in the future (2)

Domint (1111399) | about 2 years ago | (#42326981)

No matter how it ends, Earth shoot first.

Nah, in 20 years when we re-release the footage we'll just use a little cgi magic to clearly show the moon shot first and missed, hitting the cantina wall behind us.

Re:Remember this in the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42328261)

Theia shoots first.

Where is the URL with the spectrographic results? (1)

aisnota (98420) | about 2 years ago | (#42325379)

Maybe someone can point out which elements/chemicals they are going to seek or can detect?

Curious people want to know if Helium-3, water or even amino acid detection is in that mix.

What can they potentially see? What have the sensor ground tests revealed?

Interesting conversation at NASA: (4, Funny)

Andy Prough (2730467) | about 2 years ago | (#42325397)

"Oh, bye the way, which one's Pink?"

Re:Interesting conversation at NASA: (1)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | about 2 years ago | (#42325943)

This [wikipedia.org] one.

Re:Interesting conversation at NASA: (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about 2 years ago | (#42326019)

This [wikipedia.org] one.

From your Wiki link:

The Pink in Pink Floyd Syd Barrett, of English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, came up with the band's name by juxtaposing the first names of Anderson and North Carolina bluesman, Floyd Council. [3] Barrett noticed the names in the liner notes of a 1962 Blind Boy Fuller album (Philips BBL-7512). The text, written by Paul Oliver, read: "Curley Weaver and Fred McMullen, (...) Pink Anderson or Floyd Council -these were a few amongst the many blues singers that were to be heard in the rolling hills of the Piedmont, or meandering with the streams through the wooded valleys."

Re:Interesting conversation at NASA: (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#42326153)

He's the drummer.

It is just me... (5, Interesting)

Covalent (1001277) | about 2 years ago | (#42325403)

...or doesn't it seem a bit odd to name the crash site after Sally Ride? I mean, name the Mountain after her...OK. But a crash site named after a (now dead) astronaut seems a little wrong.

Re:It is just me... (2)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#42325453)

Naming it after Christa McAuliffe seemed a bit inappropriate.

Re:It is just me... (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about 2 years ago | (#42326107)

Naming it after Christa McAuliffe seemed a bit inappropriate.

Ooo-ooh! That was 'dark' side of the moon humour.

Re:It is just me... (2)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 2 years ago | (#42325545)

It's been proposed to name the entire (currently unnamed) mountain after her, but IAU rules require a person to be dead for at least three years before you can name an astronomical feature after someone. Ms Ride has priority, but must wait.

Re:It is just me... (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about 2 years ago | (#42325573)

If you're plunging your probe into a moon, where the sun don't shine, you could always name the impact crater after my brother-in-law. That would be a bit more appropriate.

Re:It is just me... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42326047)

Thy crashed the probes into the site previously named after her.

Re:It is just me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42327359)

There was more than ONE female astronaut you know...

Re:It is just me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42329083)

How about Dale Earnhardt, Sr?

Headline (1)

sixtyeight (844265) | about 2 years ago | (#42325485)

Was not prepared for that headline this morning.

Who subscribed me to Slashdot After Dark?

Amazing coincidence (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 2 years ago | (#42325519)

How likely would the probes be to crash into one of the historic sites? The surface area of the moon is, whatm almost four times that of the entire US? Oh, my, the probe fell exactly on the Quick-e-mart in SomeVille, Arizona!

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42325523)

there is no dark side in the moon, really. As a matter of fact it's all dark

The cratered side of the Moon (0)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | about 2 years ago | (#42325543)

While the Moon is tidally locked to the Earth so we can't directly observe much of the far side, the Moon has no permanently "dark side" that receives no sunlight. The more obvious difference between the two hemispheres is that the far side, probably because it's more exposed to incoming space debris, is more cratered than the near side.

While crashing the space probes on the far side is much like throwing tear gas in a gas chamber, I wonder whether the far side is actually the more valuable side from a scientific standpoint. While life on the Moon is extremely unlikely, the craters themselves could contain traces of organic and other alien compounds deposited from wayward comets or meteors.

Re:The cratered side of the Moon (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about 2 years ago | (#42326071)

I've read that Nasa decided to crash them on 'the far side' so as not to risk contamination of the 'historic sites' from previous missions.

Apple maps (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | about 2 years ago | (#42325577)

Insert Apple maps joke here ___________

Re:Apple maps (1)

MiniMike (234881) | about 2 years ago | (#42325619)

This explains why I saw a bunch of Apple maps jokes in the previous story!

Far can be dark, depending on what you mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42325645)

While it does require clarification for a layperson that the impact is on the far side of the moon, that side can be considered "dark" if you are talking in terms of communication... a "dark" area in regards to communication could happen anywhere, including those bathed in light. Granted, due to confusion (like the current subject matter), the use of "dark" is probably not the best choice of words.

Moon? (0)

AshFan (879808) | about 2 years ago | (#42325697)

That wasn't a moon... it was a space station!

Why both on the same location, at the same time? (1)

Barryke (772876) | about 2 years ago | (#42325747)

I wonder why they decided to crash both, on the very same day, on the same location.
It does not make much sense unless they already docked in orbit or are running some experiment that needs this to happen.

Re:Why both on the same location, at the same time (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about 2 years ago | (#42325879)

I wonder why they decided to crash both, on the very same day, on the same location.

Convenience. If you have to crash two probes, may as well do it in one go.

Re:Why both on the same location, at the same time (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 2 years ago | (#42325975)

I wonder why they decided to crash both, on the very same day, on the same location.
It does not make much sense unless they already docked in orbit or are running some experiment that needs this to happen.

The two probes were orbiting in tandem, Flow (GRAIL B) always followed 20 swconds behind Ebb (GRAIL A). From what I understand this was actually implemented in software, i.e. the humans tell Ebb where to go and Flow follows.

Re:Why both on the same location, at the same time (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#42326829)

They were running some experiment that needs this to happen. Two-probe gravametric mapping only works if your two probes precisely share a common orbit at close (in space terms) distance.

Another NASA oops moment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42325959)

The team misinterpreted the last instructions from their boss.

Eager young rocket scientist: Boss! Boss! The probes are running out of fuel!

Boss: I'm late for dinner. Shove 'em where the sun don't shine.

Re:Another NASA oops moment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42326077)

That's not nearly as funny as the reason why we lost contact with the Viking 1 lander.

Obligatory... (2)

automag (834164) | about 2 years ago | (#42326051)

That's no moon. It's a space station.

Really? "Sally Ride"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42326211)

All I can say is didn't NASA give any though to avoiding sexist jokes about thei choice of "first American Woman Astronaut"? They had to have had at least one candidate with a less problematic name.

"each impacting 30 seconds apart from each other" (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 2 years ago | (#42326387)

Even if it said "each impacting 30 seconds apart from THE other"
it would be twisted.

Since they were TWIN probes, if the one impacted 30 seconds from
the other, the other must have impacted 30 seconds from the one.

Re:"each impacting 30 seconds apart from each othe (1)

gsslay (807818) | about 2 years ago | (#42336093)

You forgot to account for the wacky time dilation you get everywhere in space. The time each impacted relative to the other is entirely subjective to each.

Or the submitter screwed up the English language, and slashdot doesn't do copy-editing. Whatever.

Dark? (1)

Captain_Chaos (103843) | about 2 years ago | (#42326565)

For a moment there I forgot that the "dark" side of the moon is actually only dark at the full moon...

Their impact sites were named after Sally Ride (1)

SJester (1676058) | about 2 years ago | (#42326855)

Why didn't they name the two impact sites after Columbia and Challenger?

not to be too sensitive but... (1, Insightful)

mcouper (128103) | about 2 years ago | (#42327325)

Does anyone find a little sick irony in naming a crash site after an astronaut who perished in a crash?

Re:not to be too sensitive but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42327609)

Sally Ride died of cancer.

Re:not to be too sensitive but... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42327621)

Yes, completely inapproriate... but technically she died in an mid-air explosion(launch into space) not a crash.

Re:not to be too sensitive but... (2)

johnny cashed (590023) | about 2 years ago | (#42327953)

Considering she served on the accident investigation board of the Columbia accident (2003), and then died this year (2012) of pancreatic cancer, I say that there is no sick irony in naming this crash site after Sally Ride. Is there some other crash site named after an astronaut that perished in a crash?

Dark Side of the Moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42329413)

Currently, over half of the far side of the moon is not dark.

IronSky (1)

jago25_98 (566531) | about 2 years ago | (#42331625)

C'mon with the IronSky jokes already,
  what an awful film that was

It's a shame... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42343751)

...the 2 probes were not named "Harry Reid" and "Nancy Pelosi"

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