Nasa launches spacecraft LADEE to investigate levitating moon dust
LADEE probe takes off successfully in latest US mission to the Moon
Nasa’s newest unmanned robotic explorer rocketed into space late last night, giving spectators along the east coast of the US a Friday night to remember.
Sky-watchers from Boston down to Baltimore said flames spewing from the rocket’s tail could be seen clearly against the night sky, in what is Nasa’s first deep space blast-off from from Wallops Flight Facility centre in Virginia.
It was a change of venue for the US space agency, which usually launch moon mission from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
“Godspeed on your journey to the moon, LADEE,” Nasa’s Launch Control announced, while light controllers applauded and exchanged high-fives following the successful lift-off.
Nasa confirmed its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) had successfully gone into orbit and would complete three increasingly distant laps around the Earth before getting close enough to reach lunar orbit.
LADEE, which is the size of a small car, is designed to investigate the remarkably thin atmosphere of the moon. Our nearest satellite has an atmosphere thought to be only 1/100,000th the density of Earth’s atmosphere.
The LADEE mission, which cost $280m (£180m), also hopes to get an insight into the odd behaviour of moondust, which appears to levitate from the surface and has mystified scientists and astronauts for decades.
The Apollo space team reported that the chaffing moondust tended to be sticky and reported concerns that if breathed in the material could cause respiratory problems.
Moondust, which consists of remnant rock shattered through eons of meteorite impacts, is considered potentially hazardous by scientists.
Butler Hine, LADEE's project manager said:
“It’s not like terrestrial dust. Terrestrial dust is like talcum powder. On the Moon, it’s very rough. It’s kinda evil. It follows electric field lines; it works its way into equipment. One of the questions about dust on the Moon is an engineering question: how do you design things so that they can survive the dust environment.”
LADEE, which will not actually land on the moon’s surface but hover 20km above it, will spend 100 days making scientific observations after reaching its destination in two months' time.
The mission will end with LADEE making a suicide plunge onto the surface of the moon.
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 Watch: Man takes selfie every mile of 2,600 mile hike, creates amazing timelapse video
- 4 The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz 'sought treatment for eyesight problems'
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Yemen crisis: Saudi Arabia ready for long campaign against Houthi rebels across the border
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...