60-Second Science

Schoolkids Name Moon Orbiters

GRAIL A and B, the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory lunar moon satellites, are now Ebb and Flow, courtesy of Montana students. Cynthia Graber reports

Two washing-machine-sized satellites recently went into orbit around the moon. In March, they’ll start to gather detailed data about the quirks of the moon’s gravity. The working names for the satellites have been GRAIL A and B, for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory. But they just got new names—courtesy of fourth graders from Bozeman, Montana.

NASA invited U.S. students to submit essays with suggested names. The Bozeman entry was picked out of more than 900 schools representing 11,000 students. The winners impressed the judges with their careful research about the goal of the mission. Because the moon’s gravity gives us our tides, the kids suggested GRAIL A and B’s new handles: Ebb and Flow.

The mission is NASA’s first with instruments aboard entirely dedicated to education. Each satellite has a small camera that middle school students can request be aimed at target areas on the moon for study.

The winning essay writers said that what are now called Ebb and Flow are on a journey, just as the moon is on a journey around the Earth. And as the students have begun their own journey, of scientific exploration.

—Cynthia Graber

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.] 

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