NASA has named the site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honor of the late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the probes' mission team.
A little over 40 years after the last Apollo astronauts left the Moon, the two spacecraft comprising NASA's GRAIL mission impacted on the surface. After mapping the structure of the lunar interior, the spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, were commanded to alter their orbits and fly in formation on a trajectory that caused them to impact with a mountain near the Moon's north pole, well away from any of areas of interest, including the Apollo landing sites.
The impacts of Ebb and Flow add to the debris left on the Moon, whose surface was first modified by human activity when the Soviet Union crashed its first spacecraft to reach the Moon, Luna 2, as well as its third rocket stage, near crater Archimedes in September 1959. In addition to lunar module landing stages, lunar rovers, scientific instruments, tools and flags, the Apollo astronauts left behind a huge variety of trash, including two golf balls, a falcon's feather used in a demonstration of Galileo's theory of gravity, bags of urine and excrement, and a photograph of astronaut Charles Duke's family.
(Image credit: Charles Duke/NASA)