Lunar Landmark Named for Sally Ride

December 19th, 2012

The Earth’s moon now includes a near North Pole landmark named in honor of Sally K. Ride, American’s first female astronaut.

NASA Names GRAIL mission site on the Moon for Sally Ride, the first U. S. female astronaut. Image Credit/NASA

The site was named for Ride on Dec. 17, moments after it became the crash site for NASA’s twin GRAIL mission spacecraft, Ebb and Flow.

Ride, who died of cancer in July 2012, was a member of the mission’s science team. Her Sally Ride Science organization and the University of California, San Diego, supported MoonKAMS on the two orbital probes. The cameras were aimed at sites selected by students.

Ride ushered her gender into space on June 18, 1983, as she launched aboard the shuttle Challenger for a seven day mission that feature deployments of two communications satellites and a range of space operations and science  experiments. She returned to orbit in 1984 for a second mission aboard Challenger.

A physicist, Ride served on commissions that investigated the shuttle  Challenger and Columbia tragedies and led an in house study of NASA exploration options.

NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission was launched Sept. 10, 2011 to map the moon’s gravity field with high precision. The two probes entered lunar orbit on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and were purposely crashed into a mountain near Goldschmidt Crater as they ran out of fuel.

The crash site was selected to avoid any prospect the orbiters, Ebb and Flow, would slam into one of 23 historic sites, places where previous missions from theU. S.and formerSoviet Unionlanded.

Findings from the GRAIL mission have so far confirmed theories about the formation of the moon: it was created when a Mars-sized object sliced off part of the Earth. As the moon formed, the lunar crust also underwent a rapid expansion, a theory Ebb and Flow also helped to confirm.

The gravity charts Ebb and Flow create are expected to assist with the navigation of future human and robotic missions that attempt to land on the moon.