The New Year starts with a sweet reunion

Artist's rendition of the two GRAIL spacecraft in orbit. Image credited to NASA.While some astronomers strive to discover new worlds, a team of NASA scientists are still trying to ascertain more local mysteries. Despite everything that is understood about technology and life on Earth, scientists are still unsure of the exact origins of our blue planet and its sole lunar neighbor.

Earlier today the second of two NASA satellites rejoined its partner in a lunar orbit. The two Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, spacecrafts will sail around the moon for a period of a few months collecting detailed data on the moon’s gravity field.

Now together, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B will embark on the journey to unlocking a fundamental question: how did we get here? More specifically, the satellites will study the moon in unprecedented detail from the crust to the core. From this, scientists hope to learn about its thermal history, which may help determine where the moon came from and incidentally where the rest of the Solar System’s planets and moons originated.

Understanding more about our own Solar System will undoubtedly help us understand the other planetary systems scientists continue to discover. Especially with Kepler’s outstanding and astonishing volume of data including hundreds of new potential planets, scientists will need all the help they can get to reveal the mechanisms that drive planet formation.

The GRAIL spacecraft usher in a new year of technological advancement and scientific adventure. I raise a glass and toast to a sweet reunion full of potential.