On Dec. 17, 2012, NASA’s GRAIL mission crashed into the moon

GRAIL stands for Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory, and the mission consisted of two twin spacecraft named Ebb and Flow that were about the size of a washer and dryer. 

Artist's concept of the two Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft orbiting the moon. NASA launched the twin probes in September 2011 to study the moon's gravitational field in unprecedented detail.

Artist’s concept of the two Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft orbiting the moon. NASA launched the twin probes in September 2011 to study the moon’s gravitational field in unprecedented detail.  (Image credit: Lockheed Martin )

They orbited the moon in tandem to map the moon’s gravity field. The mission lasted about nine months, and they even completed an extended mission before the spacecraft began to run low on fuel, so NASA decided it was time to power them down. 

Both spacecraft bit the lunar dust pretty violently, falling faster than 3,700 miles per hour.

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Hanneke Weitering

Hanneke Weitering is an editor at Space.com with 10 years of experience in science journalism. She has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time Hanneke anjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos. 

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