BOZEMAN — Fourth graders from Emily Dickinson Elementary in Bozeman won a NASA contest Tuesday to name two spacecraft that began orbiting the moon on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
The 28 students in Nina DiMauro's class chose the names "Ebb and Flow" for the washing-machine sized spacecraft that are part of the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL.
GRAIL is the first planetary mission carrying instruments dedicated to education and public outreach. Each spacecraft carries a small camera. The Emily Dickinson students will be able to choose the first images to be shot by the cameras.
The fourth-graders' suggested names were chosen from among entries by nearly 900 classrooms in 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
DiMauro's class was featured by NASA during a live video-link news conference from Washington, D.C., and the students then got to talk by phone with Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.
Chandler Foust, 10, said students came up with the names because the moon's gravity makes ocean tides ebb and flow.
"I was really excited," Chandler said of the moment the class found out it won the contest.
Maria Zuber of MIT, the principal investigator on the project, said the class won largely because of its strong essay. She said she and Ride were "extremely persuaded" by the students' sophisticated thinking about gravity.