JPL: Montana Students Name Lunar Probes

Fourth-grade students submit winning entry out of 890 proposals nationwide.

And the winning names of the Twin NASA spacecraft that orbited around the moon New Year's Eve and New Year's Day: Ebb and Flow. 

Elementary students in Montana won the space agency's nationwide school contest that began in October, announced Tuesday. Click here to see how the students showed their winning names.

Fourth graders from the Emily Dickinson Elementary School in Bozeman, MT came up the winning entry that beat out nearly 890 proposals -- 900 classrooms with more than 11,000 students from 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Previously named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL-A and -B, the "washing machine-sized spacecraft'' begin science operations in March, after a launch in September 2011, according to JPL. JPL manages the GRAIL mission for NASA.

"The 28 students of Nina DiMauro's class at the Emily Dickinson Elementary School have really hit the nail on the head," Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. said in a prepared statement.

"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,'' she added.

Along with Zuber, judging the contest was Sally Ride, America's first woman in space and CEO of Sally Ride Science in San Diego. The contest invited ideas from U.S. students ages five to 18. Although everything from spelling and grammar to creativity was considered, Zuber and Ride focused on the quality of submitted essays, the JPL news release said.

GRAIL is NASA's first planetary mission carrying instruments that are fully dedicated to education and community outreach. Each spacecraft carries a small camera called GRAIL MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students). The winning prize for the Dickinson students is to choose the first camera images.

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

The Mission

Ebb and Flow were launched in September 2011. The mission will position the twin spacecraft into the same orbit around the Moon. As these orbiters fly over the lunar surface they will measure velocity as affected by the Moon’s gravity and landscape. According to NASA, scientists will create a “high-resolution map of the Moon’s gravitational field” using these measurements.

During their science mission, the duo will answer longstanding questions about the moon and give scientists a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.


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