Tag Archives: LADEE

LADEE impact site located

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted the impact crater formed when engineers sent the probe LADEE crashing into the lunar surface in April 2014.

Compared with asteroid and meteoroid impacts on the moon, LADEE was actually traveling pretty slow, ‘only’ 3,800 miles per hour (1,700 meters per second). That combined with the relatively low mass and density of the spacecraft, a fairly neat crater of only 10 feet (3 meters) across was created. The crater barely registered in LROC’s image resolution, making it a very difficult task to identify the fresh man-made divot.

As the NASA lunar probe LADEE nears its planned end — where it will crash onto the Moon — the scientists running it admit that they have as yet been unable to solve its primary scientific question about levitating lunar dust.

As the NASA lunar probe LADEE nears its planned end — where it will crash onto the Moon — the scientists running it admit that they have as yet been unable to solve its primary scientific question about levitating lunar dust.

A major goal of the mission was to understand a bizarre glow on the Moon’s horizon, spotted by Apollo astronauts just before sunrise. “So far we haven’t come up with an explanation for that,” project scientist Rick Elphic, of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, said at a media briefing on 3 April. One leading idea is that the Sun’s ultraviolet rays cause lunar dust particles to become electrically charged. That dust then lofts upwards, forming a cloud that caught the light and the astronauts’ eyes.

LADEE carries an instrument that measures the impact of individual dust particles, as well as the collective signal from smaller particles. Lunar scientists had expected a certain amount of tiny dust to explain what the Apollo astronauts saw. But LADEE didn’t find it. “We did measure a signal that indicates that the amount of lofted dust has to be at least two orders of magnitude below the expectations that were based on the Apollo reports,” says Mihály Horányi, the instrument’s principal investigator, who is at the University of Colorado. Perhaps the dust lofting happens only occasionally, he suggests, and the astronauts were in just the right place at the right time to see it.

This remains an important question. Knowing what caused that horizon glow and knowing how often it occurs is essential knowledge for any future lunar base or research station.

In an engineering test, LADEE successfully used a laser to beam information back from the Moon this past weekend.

In an engineering test, LADEE successfully used a laser to beam information back from the Moon this past weekend.

Lasers could enhance space communications and lead to radical changes in spacecraft design. Today’s spacecraft communicate with radio, but radiofrequency wavelengths are so long that they require large dishes to capture the signals. Laser wavelengths are 10,000 times shorter than radio, the upshot being that a spacecraft could deliver much more data then even the best modern radio system. For scale, NASA says that the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft that’s carrying this laser experiment would take 639 hours to download an average-length HD movie using ordinary S-band communications. LLCD could download the film in less than eight minutes.

NASA’s lunar probe LADEE was successfully launched tonight from Wallops Island.

NASA’s lunar probe LADEE was successfully launched tonight from Wallops Island.

Update: A computer glitch occurred shortly after reaching orbit, causing the computer to shut down the spacecraft’s reaction wheels.

Engineers seem unworried, and expect to have the problem solved within a couple of days.

The Moon’s dirtiest secret: Does its dust levitate?

The Moon’s dirtiest secret: Does its dust levitate?

This is a serious mystery left over from the Apollo missions which has significant ramifications not only for future research (the dust would interfere badly with any astronomical observatories) but also for any colonies that are eventually established.

Orbital Sciences has issued an update on its Antares launch schedule, with the launch window now set for September 14-19.

The competition heats up: Orbital Sciences has issued an update on its Antares launch schedule, with the launch window for the Cygnus demonstration mission to ISS now set for September 14-19.

They announced this on July 10, but I am only now catching up. The launch could happen sooner, if there are delays to the launch of NASA’s LADEE moon probe. Right now the two launches are coordinated to have LADEE launch first.