I do have to say, as I was taking my girlfriend back to the airport on Monday morning, looking up at the moon brought a real feeling of accomplishment. Something I made, a piece of me and of those who helped and sacrificed with me, is gone from this world forever.
Well, on to some pictures and a description of what it really is.
GRAIL stands for Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory. It is a pair of nearly identical spacecraft that will travel to the moon and measure small changes in the gravity of the moon to help map the surface and the interior of the moon. I can sit here and repeat everything that has been written about GRAIL, but I won't do that. Instead I'll post some links to videos and websites that have done the job much more thoroughly than I.
GRAIL Mission Episode 1: Why a Gravity Map of the Moon [720p]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4omBkcvWjM
GRAIL Mission Episode 2: How to Get a Hi-Res Gravity Map of the Moon [720p]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyYsoiuqFW8
GRAIL Mission Episode 3: How We Get to the Moon [720p]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxgIIVkKBqw
GRAIL Mission Episode 4: How to Make it Happen [720p]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJomWAeNTPQ
GRAIL Mission Episode 5: Testing the Team [720p]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5Csq1dK5x8
GRAIL Mission Episode 6: Commanding the Spacecraft [720p]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViqBLOK4qOo&feature=related
GRAIL Mission Episode 7: High Heritage Builds High Confidence [720p]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4eSKbIrFqE&feature=related
These videos describe the program very well.
Launch #2 (view from the beach): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmTlgnVrdkQ
Spacecraft Separation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKxiuk0MhA4
Post Launch Briefing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o12Q56Q24qw
GRAIL Spacecraft & Vehicle Flow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeI5TrOWHqs&feature=related
This set of videos is from launch day of course. GRAIL launched on the third morning after its window opened. The first day was scrubbed due to 'excessive high level winds'. The second day was cancelled to work on a heater problem. The third was almost scrubbed again for the high level winds but did take off on the second launch time of the day.
Here is a link to view photos taken throughout the programs development. This is on the NASA website, and is hard to find if someone doesn't point you in the right direction.
GRAIL photos are located under the Expendable Launch Vehicles list, also along with a lot of other various programs throughout NASA's history. A great place to look at photos.
And now, a few of my own photos.
Unfortunately, my camera broke the day of the launch. I got a few photos of us standing around on the pier at Jetty Park, but the ones of the launch itself are not viewable. Time to get a new one, and definitely time to get a much better one.
Now this week, we have been packing up our stuff to go back to Colorado. I'm excited to finally go home after nearly 5 months down here. It has been a great experience, and I am hopeful that I will be back down here for another launch campaign in the near future.