GRAIL Launch


Video Credit: A. Nejad

Ashcon Nejad was at the GRAIL launch with NLSI colleagues Brad Bailey, Brian Day and Joe Minafra, where they took this amazing footage.

What was the best part about witnessing his first launch in person? “The best part was the 6 or 7 second delay before the sound waves hit you; they gradually come at you until they go rushing past and the power of the launch hits you. You feel it in your heart, the way loud bass shakes your body, it’s awesome.”

There were several launch delays, at first the upper level winds were too strong, then there was a propellant issue, but then finally they launched before the weather moved in again.

“We were at the beach with a few hundred people watching. The tension, the anticipation, it was all around very exciting and people were happy to finally see GRAIL launch. You can hear that in the audio, the excitement in their voices.”

The team also took place in the educational activities centered around the GRAIL launch. This included a public event with an IMAX theater and exhibit center. The team set up the NLSI booth, a giant Moon globe, and gave demonstrations of projects including Exploration Uplink, MoonZoo, International Observe the Moon Night, and Eyes on the Solar System.

What was the best part? “Getting to talk to people, interacting with the public to spark their interest, answering questions, detailing lunar missions like GRAIL, LADEE, LRO, etc, and thoroughly explaining what we are doing with lunar science and the future of space exploration. Not just going over the mission details, but talking with them about the big picture, like finding water ice on the moon and what the mission results really mean, what it could do to our understanding of the moon and our presence beyond Earth.”

Kids know a lot about space and details of other planets. With Eyes on the Solar System, the team shows people the solar system, lets them fly through it and explore wherever they want. People are given a gateway to see what they want to see and learn about what they want to study.

“It’s one thing to stand there and give out brochures, but it’s another thing to talk to the public, actually engage them in a way that sparks interest,” Ashcon said. “People really enjoy an interactive exhibit. When you have a computer and big screen and can demo an interactive activity, it takes your booth to a new level. A lot of people didn’t know about NLSI, but now they do, now they’re following us on Twitter.”

A lot of people were really impressed with the “live” aspect of controlling a rover via Exploration Uplink and several teachers asked about bringing the experience into their classrooms. “Clearly this is impactful. You can see the passion come out in these kids—they want to be rocket scientists.”

Would you do it all again? “Oh yeah, of course. It was great knowing you made an impact, that you gave something to someone, whether that is information, knowledge, an idea, or some inspiration.”

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