NASA’s Next Moon Mission Arrives at Launch Site

June 5th, 2013

Technicians at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., work on NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) observatory sitting in the base of the thermal-vacuum chamber, in order to simulate the hot and cold extremes the observatory will experience during the mission. Credit: NASA/Ames

NASA’s next mission to the Moon has moved closer to its launch later this year.

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) has arrived at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

LADEE is a robotic mission that will orbit Earth’s Moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.

Target date for the LADEE liftoff is September 5th, and will be the first payload to launch on a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V rocket provided by Orbital Sciences Corp.

LADEE is the first deep space mission to launch from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility.

Once in orbit about the Moon, LADEE will address long-standing unknowns, and help scientists understand other planetary bodies as well.

Along with science gear, the spacecraft is toting a Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration experiment to demonstrate the use of lasers instead of radio waves to achieve broadband speeds to communicate with Earth.

NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., carried out the development, design and manages the science of the LADEE spacecraft. The space agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages LADEE within the Lunar Quest Program Office.

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By Leonard David