Two NASA space probes are set to end their missions by crashing into the surface of the moon, the U.S. space agency announced Thursday.
Probes Ebb and Flow, which were named by elementary school students in a contest, began orbiting around Earth’s only natural satellite—the moon—in January of this year to examine the internal structure and composition of the moon, but NASA said its work is done.
The space agency will initiate a controlled descent to crash the probes on a mountain near the moon’s north pole starting at around 2:30 p.m. EST Monday, Dec. 17. The probes will likely crash into the mountain, located near the Goldschmidt crater, next Friday after skimming the moon’s surface.
NASA said in a release that the probes are no longer of any use because of their low fuel levels and low orbit, adding that while in use, “the duo’s successful prime and extended science missions generated the highest resolution gravity field map of any celestial body.”
“It is going to be difficult to say goodbye,” said Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) principal investigator Maria Zuber in a statement. “Our little robotic twins have been exemplary members of the GRAIL family, and planetary science has advanced in a major way because of their contributions.”
Both spacecrafts will smash into the moon mountain at around 3,760 miles per hour, but the crash will not be observed by NASA because the region will be in shadow when it takes place, according to the space agency.
“Our lunar twins may be in the twilight of their operational lives, but one thing is for sure, they are going down swinging,” said GRAIL project manager David Lehman.
“Even during the last half of their last orbit, we are going to do an engineering experiment that could help future missions operate more efficiently.”
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