NASA's latest moonshot has been delayed again, this time until Saturday because of rocket concerns.
Space agency officials said today they need time to analyze data from the core engine of the unmanned Delta II rocket. As the rocket was drained of propellants following Thursday's failed launch attempt, an engine heater indicated it had exceeded a red-line limit, spokesman George Diller said.
High wind halted the countdown Thursday, and NASA aimed for today. Then late Thursday night, NASA bumped the launch to Saturday. Liftoff time is 8:29 a.m. Forecasters put the odds of favorable weather at 60 percent.
The near identical twin satellites are named Grail-A and Grail-B. Grail stands for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory.
Scientists will measure the entire gravity field of the moon by keeping precise track of the distance between the two probes as they chase one another around Earth's closest neighbor. They hope to figure out what's beneath the moon's surface, all the way down to the core.
None of the world's previous 109 moon missions has been dedicated to lunar gravity like Grail.
The $496 million Grail mission also is reaching out to schoolchildren. Each spacecraft has four cameras; middle school children can order up snapshots of the moon during the science operation phase of the project, which will run from March through May.
America's first spacewoman, Sally Ride, is leading the MoonKAM educational effort.