GRAIL MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) was an education and public outreach program that was part of NASA’s GRAIL satellite mission to map the Moon’s gravity. The education program was led by Sally Ride Science—the science education company founded by Dr. Sally Ride, America's first woman in space—in collaboration with undergraduate students at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).
The twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) satellites orbited the Moon from December 2011 to December 2012. The data they sent back deepened our understanding of the Moon’s gravity and interior composition.
GRAIL was NASA’s first planetary mission with instruments fully dedicated to education and public outreach. The MoonKAM program was created to engage middle schools in the GRAIL mission and in lunar exploration in general. Cameras aboard the GRAIL satellites took thousands of photographs during the mission.
The GRAIL MoonKAM mission began in March 2012 when the MoonKAM cameras aboard the orbiting GRAIL satellites were activated. For several months during 2012, students from around the world selected target areas on the lunar surface and sent requests to the GRAIL MoonKAM Student Mission Operations Center (SMOC) at UCSD. Photos of the target areas were sent back by the GRAIL satellites and made available to students on the GRAIL MoonKAM website. Students were able to use the images to study lunar features such as craters, highlands, and maria while also learning about past and future landing sites on the Moon.
After completing their mission, the GRAIL satellites were sent plunging into a mountain near the Moon's north pole on Dec. 17, 2012. NASA named the area where the spacecraft crashed after Ride, who died in July 2012. The location is now officially known as the Sally K. Ride Impact Site.
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