NASA launches robotic explorer to moon

US space agency sends unmanned robotic explorer to study lunar atmosphere and dust as part of its new $280m mission.

Last Modified: 07 Sep 2013 03:53
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
The mission will last six months and end with a suicide plunge into the moon for LADEE [Reuters]

An unmanned rocket has blasted off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in the US, with a robotic explorer on a mission to investigate the moon dust and atmosphere.

Called The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, the moon-orbiting craft will measure the thin lunar atmosphere.

Scientists want to learn the composition of the moon's ever-so-delicate atmosphere and how it might change over time and whether dust actually levitates from the lunar surface.

Unlike the quick three-day Apollo flights to the moon, the LADEE will take a full month to get there. The six-month mission costs $280m.

It will orbit Earth's closest neighbour for a few months, analysing the ever-so-delicate atmosphere and lunar dust.

An Air Force Minotaur rocket, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., is providing the ride.

This will be the first moonshot from Virginia. All but one of NASA's approximately 40 moon missions, including the manned Apollo flights of the late 1960s and early 1970s, originated from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The most recent were the twin Grail spacecraft launched two years ago. The lone exception, Clementine, a military-NASA venture, rocketed away from Southern California in 1994.

The soaring Minotaur rocket should be visible along much of the East Coast as far south as South Carolina, as far north as Maine and as far west as Pittsburgh.

The mission will last six months and end with a suicide plunge into the moon for LADEE, which is about the size of a small car.


Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.