National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
News & Events
Montana Students Submit Winning Name For NASA Lunar Spacecraft
Montana Students Submit Winning Name For NASA Lunar Spacecraft
17 Jan 2012
(Source: NASA/JPL)

Color illustration of twin GRAIL spacecraft orbiting the Moon.
Using a precision formation-flying technique, the twin GRAIL spacecraft -- Ebb and Flow -- will map the Moon's gravity field, as depicted in this artist's rendering. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

WASHINGTON -- Twin NASA spacecraft that achieved orbit around the moon New Year's Eve and New Year's Day have new names thanks to elementary students in Bozeman, Montana. Their winning entry, "Ebb and Flow," was selected as part of a nation-wide school contest that began in October 2011.

The names were submitted by fourth graders from the Emily Dickinson Elementary School. Nearly 900 classrooms with more than 11,000 students from 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, participated in the contest. Previously named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL A and B, the washing machine-sized spacecraft begin science operations in March.

"The 28 students of Nina DiMauro's class at the Emily Dickinson Elementary School have really hit the nail on the head," said Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "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."

Zuber and Sally Ride, America's first woman in space and CEO of Sally Ride Science in San Diego, selected the names following the contest, which attracted 890 proposals via the Internet. The contest invited ideas from students ages 5 to 18 enrolled in U.S. schools. Although everything from spelling and grammar to creativity were considered, Zuber and Ride primarily took into account the quality of submitted essays.

"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."

GRAIL is NASA's first planetary mission carrying instruments fully dedicated to education and public outreach. Each spacecraft carries a small camera called GRAIL MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students). Thousands of students in grades five through eight will select target areas on the lunar surface and send requests for study to the GRAIL MoonKAM Mission Operations Center in San Diego.

The winning prize for the Dickinson students is to choose the first camera images. Dickinson is one of nearly 2,000 schools registered for the MoonKAM program, which is led by Ride and her team at Sally Ride Science in collaboration with undergraduate students at the University of California in San Diego.

"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. "While we feel the ebb and flow of our tides, our twins will undergo nearly the same motion as they study our lunar neighbor."

Launched in September 2011, Ebb and Flow will be placed in a near-polar, near-circular orbit with an altitude of about 34 miles (55 kilometers). 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.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the GRAIL mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The GRAIL mission is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.

To read the full winning submission visit:

Information about MoonKAM is available online at:

For more information about GRAIL visit: or

Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington

DC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Whitney Lawrence Mullen
Sally Ride Science, San Diego

News Archive Search  Go!
Show  results per page
Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writers: Courtney O'Connor and Bill Dunford
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 13 Mar 2012