Bozeman Students Submit Winning Names For NASA Lunar Spacecraft

In September 2011, twin GRAIL satellites launched into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida to begin their journey to the Moon. Before the two spacecraft reached their destination, the GRAIL team had another mission to accomplish: naming the satellites. Originally dubbed GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B, NASA, JPL, and Sally Ride Science called upon U.S. students to tap into their creativity and mission knowledge to rename the satellites.

Nine hundred schools and more than 11,000 students from 45 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, participated in the contest that began in October 2011. A total of 890 proposals were submitted via the internet and mail.

At the end of the nation-wide school contest, on Tuesday, January 17, 2012, the GRAIL Spacecraft officially received their new names, EBB & FLOW submitted by fourth graders from Bozeman’s own Emily Dickinson Elementary School.
“The 28 students of Nina DiMauro’s class at the Emily Dickinson Elementary School have really hit the nail on the head. We were really impressed that the students drew their inspiration by researching GRAIL and its goal of measuring gravity. Ebb and Flow truly capture the spirit and excitement of our mission.” said Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge.

Zuber and Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space and CEO of Sally Ride Science in San Diego CA, selected the names from the contest submissions. Everything from spelling, grammar and creativity were considered, but Zuber and Ride primarily took into account the quality of the essays submitted.

“With submissions from all over the United States and even some from abroad, there were a lot of great entries to review,” Ride said. “This contest generated a great deal of excitement in classrooms across America, and along with it an opportunity to use that excitement to teach science.”

The winning prize for the Emily Dickinson students is to choose the first camera images that will be taken from the spacecrafts small cameras called GRAIL MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students). Thousands of students in grades 5-8 will select target areas on the lunar surface throughout the project, and studies will be done with the photos at the GRAIL MoonKAM Mission Operations Center in San Diego in collaboration with undergraduate students from UCSD. Ebb and Flow will be placed in a near-polar, near-circular orbit with an altitude of about 34 miles. During their science mission, the duo will answer longstanding questions about the moon and give scientists a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.

“These spacecraft represent not only great science but great inspiration for our future,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington.” As they study our lunar neighbor, Ebb and Flow will undergo nearly the same motion as the tides we feel here on Earth.

Ms. DiMauro’s fourth grade class at Emily Dickinson Elementary School Winning Essay:
“We have been studying the Solar System and learning about the Sun, Planets, and the Moon. We think Ebb and Flow (or Flood) are good names for Grail-A and Grail-B because the Moon’s gravity is the reason we have high tides and low tides. We thought it would be good to have names that represent something very important about the moon and what it causes to happen on Earth. Grail-A and Grail-B are on a journey just like the Moon is on a journey around Earth.”

Angie Ripple is co-owner and publisher of Bozeman magazine, and rare contributing writer. Receiving a call from NASA to cover this local op-ed piece was quite a treat, and one that could not be missed.