Dr. Maria Zuber

The GRAIL mission is headed by geophysicist Dr. Maria Zuber, an expert on planetary and space sciences. She has more than half a dozen NASA missions under her belt and decades of experience unraveling mysteries from Mercury to Mars and beyond. The first woman to lead a robotic planetary mission for NASA, Dr. Zuber was also the first woman to lead a science department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She recently was named MIT's vice president for research. She became interested in engineering and space sciences at an early age, thanks to a telescope she built with her grandfather. Using the telescope to spy on Venus and other celestial bodies, Maria began wondering how these distant planets and moons worked on the inside. She carried this interest with her all the way to the GRAIL mission, which aims to create a detailed map of the Moon’s gravitational field and internal structure using measurements supplied by twin spacecraft called Ebb and Flow. The data will also shed light on how the Moon—and the planets—formed and evolved. Dr. Zuber has teamed up with Sally Ride Science—the science education company founded by Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space—to use GRAIL as a springboard for space sciences education for middle school students across the country. Ebb and Flow are armed with several cameras—the first NASA imaging systems included expressly for an education and public outreach project—that students will use to snap pictures of the barren, cratered lunar surface, including the mysterious far side.

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