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back to article NASA to place twin probes in Moon orbit as you snog beneath mistletoe

NASA has announced that it expects to place two formation-flying space probes into orbit around the Moon on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. The Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft are intended to map the lunar gravitational field with unprecedented accuracy, giving the boffinry community many useful …

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Boffinry FTW

Being able to detect microns of difference, at these distances, and in a hostile environment?

Boffins...you rock.

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Pint

Hell yeah

Just the tip of the lance powered by human ingenuity since Newton/Leibniz attached to driving belt of CAPITALISM (more and more of the crony sort of it, unfortunately).

Was the title a Portal reference, btw?

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DJV

Which one does the tumble dry?

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The following one, obviously!

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not as obvious as it would initially seem:

"GRAIL-A will arrive in lunar orbit at 1:21 p.m. PST (2100 GMT) on Saturday December 31, and GRAIL-B on Sunday January 1 2012 at 2:05 p.m. PST (2200 GMT)."

but:

"one specific spacecraft (GRAIL-A) to follow the other (GRAIL-B)"

So GRAIL-A gets there first but actually ends up behind GRAIL-B; presumably it (A) does a few orbits of the moon then slots in behind B, once it arrives.

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Trollface

Our largest natural satellite?

... you mean there are others?

Are they made of cheese?

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Boffin

For reasons that have never been adequately explained to me....

....some people claim that we have a second moon. In reality, it's a asteroid orbiting the sun, and thus is nothing of the sort:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3753_Cruithne

GJC

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The reason is...

It was on 'QI' a while back - a programme which has a slightly less rigorous fact-checking process than Conservapedia.

So yes Regers - we can blame Steven Fry!

Hurrah!

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Devil

Ah, yes, I remember now.

To be fair, I think they showed the actual orbit, without bothering to mention that this rather excluded it from being a moon of Earth. Most odd.

I do seem to end up throwing things at the TV quite a lot when watching QI.

GJC

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Bronze badge

I think I've seen a claim that Luna isn't a proper satellite either. Something about it not being pulled backwards relative to Earth's orbit around the Sun, and therefore it's properly a binary companion. Is that so?

However

http://www.universetoday.com/15019/how-many-moons-does-earth-have/

as of June 2008, admits Luna and excludes Cruithne and 2002 AA-29.

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I'm not sure what the official definition of a moon actually is, but possibly it involves being formed from the same debris, and at the same time, as the host planet? The Moon is now thought to have been formed later that the Earth, as the result of a collision between the Earth and another planet-sized body, I think. It is also much larger than most moons.

GJC

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Joke

Grail?

A more seasonal name would have been the High Orbit Lunar Insertion Gravity Recovery and Interior Lab. Not forgetting the science Package, the QUantum Entanglement Search Technology... yes, the QUEST for the HOLI GRAIL...

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Joke

Send the Police!

We need a full investigation of WHY these spacecraft are getting covered in red blood cells. What heinous crime has been committed?

Do I really need the joke icon?

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Satellite != Moon

If a tiny rock got landed in Earth orbit it would technically be a natural satellite I suppose.

As for definition of a moon, well we called Luna a moon before we had any theory about it being blown off from the earth. I doubt the reason it forms matters so much as the orbit and size/structure.

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