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There’s already chatter about trying to extend the $496 million mission, which was slated to end before the partial lunar eclipse in June. Scientists initially did not think the solar-powered probes would survive that long, but changed their minds during the long cruise to the moon after getting new data.

Researchers expect Grail to return a plethora of data, but that information won’t be a guide to manned lunar trips anytime soon. The Obama administration last year scrapped a plan to return astronauts to the lunar surface in favor of landing on an asteroid as a stepping stone to Mars.

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Online:

http://grail.nasa.gov

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Follow Alicia Chang’s coverage at http://www.twitter.com/SciWriAlicia