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NASA probe shoots video of the dark side of the moon (+video)

One of NASA's twin Grail probes circling the moon has captured a video of the side that perpetually faces away from Earth.  

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The MoonKAM project is an effort led by former astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, to encourage student interest in science. It is the first set of cameras ever to fly on a NASA planetary probe that is completely dedicated to education and public outreach.

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Under the program, thousands of students between fourth and eighth grade will be able to request targets on the moon to be photographed by the Grail probes via an operations center based in San Diego, Calif. Once the photos are taken, they will be sent to the students for further study, NASA officials said.

"We have had great response from schools around the country; more than 2,500 signed up to participate so far," Ride said, adding that the first moon photos taken by students will be recorded in mid-March. "I expect this will excite many students about possible careers in science and engineering."

NASA launched the $496 million Grail mission in September 2011 on a tag-team mission to map the moon's gravity field like never before. The two washing machine-size spacecraft are currently lowering their orbits around the moon and will eventually begin the science phase of their mission once they reach a target altitude of just 34 miles (55 kilometers) above the lunar surface.

Grail mission scientists will use minute changes in the positions of the lunar orbiters as they fly in tandem to map variations in the moon's gravitational field.

Follow for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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